Foot Care For Runner’s Feet

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As runners, we’re always looking for new ways to push ourselves harder, improve our performance and recovery, and ultimately, become better athletes.

But it’s not all about training programs, running drills, and speedwork. One extremely important thing most runners forget is: taking care of their feet.

Foot care for runners’ feet is often neglected. Sure, we need to choose the right shoes, but that’s usually as far as it goes. The good news is that it’s not complicated to start taking better care of your feet… And it can have amazing results, both in the way you feel and the way you run.

Check out our quick guide to taking better care of your feet before, during, and after your run, on both road and trail. They carry you through run after run, so it’s worth looking after them!

Why Is It Important to Take Care of Your Feet?

When you walk, your feet carry your full body weight. When you run, that force increases to 3 or 4 times your body weight! Your feet’s muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and nerves take a beating when you run, even with max-cushioned shoes.

Just like a racing car driver would take extra care of his vehicle, you need to take extra care of your feet. After all, they’re your vehicle when you’re running!

A bit of extra foot care can go a long way toward improving your performance and accelerating your recovery time. It’s well worth putting time and effort into this—you’ll thank yourself later!

Common Foot Problems for Runners

Foot problems are the most common physical issues that runners suffer from. Knowing the most common running problems can help you identify them early and treat them if (or when) they appear.

Remember that caring for your feet doesn’t guarantee you won’t suffer from these issues. But good foot care can give you a head start on identifying and treating possible injuries.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is quite common. It’s when the thick tissue band underneath your foot—which forms the arch of your foot—becomes inflamed.

You might experience a sharp pain in the heel when standing up after resting—especially in the morning. Or you might feel pain or tenderness near the heel bone, intense pain after exercise but not during it, and possibly Achilles tenderness.

Runner’s Toe

Runner’s toe is what happens when a simple bruised toenail goes a step further. It occurs when the trauma of your toe hitting the front of your shoe causes bleeding underneath the toenail—known as a subungual hematoma.

You’ll notice pain and tenderness in the toe, black/blue bruising under the affected nail, worse pain when running, and the toenail could eventually fall off.

Blisters

Blisters are caused by friction, and it’s almost impossible to avoid them as a runner. The toes, ball of the foot, heel, and Achilles are the most common places they occur.

You can reduce the chance of getting them by wearing the right shoes, ensuring they fit correctly, and wearing moisture-wicking socks, but be prepared to deal with them at some point.

Athlete’s Foot

A common fungal infection, athlete’s foot is easy to pick up if you go barefoot in places like locker rooms, gym showers, and public swimming pools.

Symptoms include cracked or peeling skin that may appear white in color and an itching or burning sensation. You’re more likely to develop it if you have diabetes, if you’re obese, if you have a weakened immune system or an autoimmune condition, or have wounds on your feet.

Ingrown Toenails

Even if you don’t struggle with the common toenail bruising that many runners do, you may find that you have more ingrown toenails than usual. Proper foot care will ensure that these don’t become infected!

How to Take Care of Your Feet

Foot care isn’t difficult. It might take some extra time out of your day, but it’s worth it because it will save you pain, frustration, and bigger foot issues down the line.

Here are some steps you can take immediately to improve your foot health and keep your most valuable running asset safe and healthy!

The Right Footwear

Choosing the right footwear is essential for your foot health. The most important thing to reduce shock is to choose shoes with good cushioning, which will help to mitigate the impact on each foot landing. Aside from that, here are some points to consider.

Know Your Gait

If you’ve never looked into this before, it’s likely that you’re already wearing a neutral shoe. While most of the population does have a neutral foot, it’s worth assessing your gait and making sure you aren’t wearing the wrong thing.

If you discover that you’re an overpronator, you’ll be more comfortable wearing a stability shoe or a motion control shoe. Some people may develop injuries by wearing the wrong shoe type, so this can go a long way toward keeping your feet strong and healthy.

You can do a quick pronation test by wetting your feet and standing on a piece of cardboard on flat ground.

Assess your footprint: if you only have a thin sliver in the arch area, you might be an underpronator. On the other hand, if you see hardly any dry space underneath your arch, you may be an overpronator. An equal dry/wet space indicates a neutral foot.

Choose the Right Fit

It’s an excellent idea to get your foot professionally measured. Once you know your measurements, you can make better decisions about your shoes, as you can choose the right size for you.

You should also get them measured every few years, as your feet do change shape and size as you age.

In general, when you are trying on shoes, aim for a thumbs-length space between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. Your feet will expand while running – the extra space will allow this without pushing your toes against the front of the shoe.

Replace Shoes When Necessary

Running with worn-out shoes can make you more prone to injury and developing foot conditions. When the cushioning wears out, your shoes won’t absorb the shock on each foot strike anymore, so your joints will take more of a beating.

It also might not support your feet properly anymore, so there’ll be extra strain on your feet while running. This could increase your chance of injury.

Consider Insoles

If your current shoes aren’t the right ones for your feet, you might want to consider using an insole to add more support until you need to replace your shoes.

This can save you some money now, but we advise buying shoes that suit your feet when replacing your current pair.

Pre-Run Foot Care Routine

It’s a good idea to take a bit of time to prepare your feet for running. Just a few minutes every day can save you a lot of pain and difficulty with your feet.

Here’s a quick pre-run foot care routine to add to your day before going on a run.

  • Wash your feet with soap and water and dry them properly.
  • Make sure your nails are trimmed.
  • Stretch your feet to warm up the muscles.
  • Apply moleskin or lubricant to areas that chafe.
  • Consider foot powder or antiperspirant spray.
  • Choose moisture-wicking, blister-resistant socks.

Post-Run Foot Care

When you get home, you can also take a few steps to increase your foot hygiene and make sure they stay healthy. It’s worth taking the time here because your feet will be tired and sweaty at this point.

  • Wash your feet with soap and water and dry them thoroughly.
  • Soak your feet in an Epsom salt bath for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Massage your feet to increase circulation.
  • Moisturize your feet and put on a pair of soft socks.
  • Elevate your feet for 10 to 15 minutes.

Tips to Take Care of Your Feet at Home

Aside from your pre-run and post-run foot care routine, it’s a good idea to implement regular foot care in your daily life, even if you’re not running. Here are some handy tips to help you stay on top of your foot care.

Check Your Feet Often

Checking your feet often is the best way to stay on top of potential foot problems. You only need a few minutes each day to pay attention to your feet. After you’ve washed your feet, examine them closely.

Look for any signs of damage to the skin, redness or swelling, blisters, bruises, cuts, peeling skin, or cracks. If you can take steps to treat these things early on, there’s much less chance of them developing into more severe foot issues.

Rotate Your Shoes

We highly recommend having more than one pair of running shoes and rotating between them every time you run. This will give each pair enough time to dry out between uses, which minimizes the chance of bacteria or fungi growing in the shoes and affecting your feet.

Mix Up Your Running Surfaces

Alternating between harder and softer surfaces can take some strain off your feet. You can switch between concrete, asphalt, grass, trail surfaces, and the track. This will allow your feet and lower legs a break from the hard road or sidewalk, allowing them to recover more easily.

Listen to Your Body

It’s a good idea to get in the habit of paying attention to your body. As runners, we should pay more attention to our feet than others, so try to take a few minutes daily to consider how your feet feel.

You can do this while sitting at your computer, eating dinner, watching TV, or anything else. Place your focus on your feet and notice if you feel any pain or discomfort. If there are any unusual sensations or aches without an apparent cause, it’s wise to get checked out by a podiatrist.

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.