As a personal trainer and runner who works with others to become endurance athletes after massive weight loss, one thing I see all too often are people who are not taking care of their feet. This is more common than you think and it can result in not only causing unneeded pain, but also injury and eventually can lead to the person just stopping their exercise regimen.
Taking proper care of your feet will have a huge effect on not just the feet, but also the ankles, knees, calves, thighs, and your mental state as well. This is something I preach all the time to my Fit and Flourishing Personal Training clients as well as on my radio show.
I was bad about this when I first decided to take up walking and then running about four years ago to aid in my weight loss goals. At this point I was not a personal trainer, not working on my RD license, and was pretty clueless. I did what most people do and went to the local sporting goods box store and got a cute pair of shoes. Then off I went. BIG MISTAKE.
Not until I really got into running and fitness and discovered my now good friend and running Guru Jeff Galloway, did I learn about how important foot care is for any endurance program.
Hal Higdon has a quote I love. This was also published in Runner’s World. “Your feet are the foundation of every stride you take. Time to start treating them that way.”
Here are some things you need to always remember in order to be sure you are caring for your feet properly as a walker/runner.
1. MOISTURIZE– Dry cracking feet are painful and can lead to more serious issues. After you shower, take 30 seconds to put a good moisturizer on your feet to keep them soft. The fewer dry rough spots and callouses, the less your chance for blisters. You do not need an expensive product either. Just anything from the local drug store that says it adds a lot of moisture. Vaseline makes several as does Jergens and they are very reasonable in price.
2. TRIM THOSE TOENAILS! – One of the surest ways to get black toenails, or “runner’s toe” is to not have your toenails trimmed properly. It is not only important that they be kept trimmed, but also that you cut them straight across to avoid things like ingrown toenails which are painful and no fun at all.
What is Runner’s Toe you ask? Most people know it by the usual black toenail that can be painful, but sometimes not, and eventually falls off. This black color to the toenail is actually a hematoma under the nail. Sometimes they can get so bad that a visit to the podiatrist is needed to drill a small hole in the top of the nail and drain the blood. I have had two of them in four years. fortunately mine were not painful and did not involve my cuticle, but when they DO involve the cuticle, the pain is way worse. Back in November I walked the Walt Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon with a broken back and due to the medical issues going on, I chose an older pair of shoes that night at the last minute. I should have known better. This photo was the result after 13.1 miles.
Notice on the black toe how much longer the nail is than the other toe showing. This was my carelessness of not trimming that toenail before the event, combined with not wearing the pair of shoes I knew I needed to wear. ( I think I was in a fog from leading my first group in a Disney event, Bama losing to Texas A&M an hour before the race started, and the fear of failing to finish the race or meet the pace time with two broken bones in my back….um yes….these are my excuses!) But seriously, the nail came off a few days later and I was so mad with myself because I knew better! Bottom line- keep those nails trimmed!
3. SOCKS- Many people never think twice about the socks they choose for running. There are a lot of factors you need to look into when picking socks. The biggest thing to remember for distance walking or running is to choose a synthetic sock and not cotton and the synthetic fibers will keep moisture away from your skin. This will prevent rubbing and blisters. It is also important to make sure that if the socks have seams, they do not hit the pressure points of your toes and feet and cause rubbing in those places. The best thing to do is buy one pair of several types you think may be good for you and experiment. This link is a great article from Runner’s World that talks about how to choose the right pair of running socks.
4. STRETCH- Always be sure to stretch your feet and also the toes before and after a race/run. For me this is even more important in cold weather where I tend to get cramps in my feet and toes. I will stretch my feet on a curb and also stretch my toes by using a towel. I will place the towel under my toes while standing and pull for about 20-30 seconds at a time and do this 2-3 times for each foot.
5. SHOES- THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISION YOU WILL MAKE!
If you only take one piece of advice given here, this is the piece to take. GET PROFESSIONALLY FITTED FOR YOUR RUNNING/WALKING SHOES. Wait- let me repeat this- GET PROFESSIONALLY FITTED FOR YOUR RUNNING/WALKING SHOES. Do not go to your local Wal Mart or big box sporting good store and get shoes. I can promise you that the high school kid stocking shoes at the sporting good store does NOT have the knowledge or equipment to fit you properly for shoes.
You need to go to a good reputable running store. They should have trained staff and the right technology to do both an analysis of your gait as well as of the pressure points of your feet. Everyone is totally different and has different needs. If you are not fitted correctly and the shoes are not right for you, YOU CAN INJURE YOURSELF.
For those on the Gulf Coast, I highly recommend Run N Tri. They have two locations. One is in Mobile, AL and one in Gulfport, MS. Go visit their site and look at the technology they use to personally fit you. Their methods are state of the art and this is where my family gets their shoes. Two of my sons run cross-country for their high school and these photos are from a recent fitting they both had.
You will pay a few dollars more for a professionally fitted pair of shoes, but it is more than worth the price. Be sure not to keep the same pair for too long. The typical shoe is good for about 500 miles, but if you are very tall or if you are carrying a good bit of extra weight, you will want to change them out after about 400 miles.
For those who are running every day or at least 5 times per week, if you can afford it, consider getting two pair and not wearing them two days in a row.
I am one of those lucky girls who has a hubby who will not think twice about grabbing the lotion and giving me a nice foot rub. If you have someone to do that, try and do so about once a week, or you can even do it yourself and get the tension out of those muscles. Walking barefoot on the beach is also great for getting those toes and feet stretched out.
Lastly, LET THOSE FEET BREATHE! At the end of a race or long run, take those shoes off and change into some flip flops or just go barefooted for a while. If your feet are sore, you can ice them and also elevate them.
Remember, your feet are going to treat you as well as you treat them, so treat them with lots of TLC!