Your feet can make or break you; can fail you on the tracks or bring you to the finish line. It’s a smart move to Invest money, time and effort on your feet by giving them the proper care they deserve. Every stride you take when you run for miles every day as part of your training cause them damage, so they need your TLC.
Be pro-active by seeing the problem before it occurs and take the necessary steps to avoid it. Before you suffer from repetitive or overuse injury, plan your daily and weekly routine to keep your feet in good condition. When they are at their best, you can maximize their potential to achieve your goals.
Whatever works for others may not work for you. So, through experience and research, you should decide what suits your needs in terms of shoes, socks, treatments, massage, and exercises. Here are some brilliant ideas you may want to follow on the ways to take care of your feet which will prove to be beneficial for your health and track performance.
1. Treat Your Feet With The Right Shoes
There are countless types of running shoes to choose from popular brands. The question is: How do you find the right shoes for you? The first step is to know the anatomy of your feet. There are three types of runners based on their type of feet:
- Over-pronator or flat feet – You need motion control running shoes which focus on medial support designed with dual density midsoles, roll bars or footbridges.
- Neutral-pronator – You need stability running shoes with combined cushioning and support features. This type is best suited for neutral and mild support shoes.
- Supinator (under-pronation) – You need cushioning running shoes with enhanced shock dispersion in the heel and forefoot areas by the addition of materials such as air, gel or hydro flow.
The second step is to identify how you run. Where is your first contact with the ground: the outside of the heel or the inside of the forefoot? For many athletes and sprinters, the initial contact is with the forefoot. If this is your case, you don’t need a lot of cushioning in the heel, but rather at the front.
When fitting for your shoes, go to the shop in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest. It is recommended to have at least half an inch toe room when you’re standing and make sure all the bones of your foot fit comfortably in the shoe. Take advantage of the extra service if the shop provides a shoe-fitting expert to help you.
Also check out our dedicated page on shoes with plantar fasciitis support if you have more serious pains and strains.
2. Wear The Right Socks
The best socks for runners are made from synthetic materials such as polyester or acrylic because of their wicking property. Wicking fabrics draw moisture away from the skin and allow the sweat to evaporate from the material rather than your skin. Your socks must be lightweight and breathable to avoid friction that leads to blisters.
How about compression socks? They are good for running because they apply graduated pressure to your lower legs to improve blood circulation, thus increase oxygen delivery to the muscles. Compression socks are made of strong elastic materials and worn just below the knee to reduce swelling, soreness, and muscle fatigue.
3. Moisturize Daily And Exfoliate Dead Skin Weekly
Not only your face needs a moisturizer, your feet do too! Keep your feet soft and supple to prevent cracked heels caused by the friction while running. Cracked heels are your worst nightmare, leading to bleeding, and become painful and infected. Apply moisturizer to prevent heel fissures and blisters.
You can use silicon-based lubricants as these do not contain water and are not absorbed by the skin, so they last longer than water-based lubricants. They also repel moisture to keep your feet blister-free and healthy. But be careful because it’s difficult to remove the stains. Choose one that is odorless and colorless, and does not become sticky.
How about dead skin on your feet? Use a foot scrub which you can buy from the pharmacy or drugstore over the counter. Choose one with granules that helps exfoliate your feet to remove dead cells from the surface of your skin. Apply the scrub directly and rub with your palm or sponge, then rinse thoroughly with warm water.
You can create your own home remedy with the use of oatmeal scrub. Mix equal parts of oatmeal and milk to make a paste. Apply on your feet and allow to set for 20 to 30 minutes. Then use a foot brush or sponge to exfoliate your feet, rinse with cold water and let dry. Moisturize with cream, petroleum jelly or virgin coconut oil (VCO).
4. Apply Cold Therapy
After each run, because of the strain on the muscles and tissues, your feet become overheated and swollen. Cold therapy is a medically proven treatment to reduce inflammation and pain. You can use ice in a resealable bag or a cold pack with a refrigerant gel and apply for 15 to 20 minutes.
Do not apply cold therapy for more than 20 minutes. To protect you from frostbite, wrap the bag or cold pack in a thin layer of cloth and if you have mild to moderate swelling apply three times per day. It is effective to have several shorter treatments than a longer one. Elevate your feet and rest them until the swelling subsides.
When you have a muscle or tissue injury, the body responds by releasing chemicals into your blood and increasing blood flow into the affected area. The increased movement of the blood results to inflammation while the pressure on the vein, artery or capillary causes the pain.
Cold therapy constricts blood vessels thus controls blood flow into the injured muscles and slows down cellular metabolism. After you remove the cold pack, your arteries expand which facilitate the flow of blood and flush out the by-products of muscle breakdown.
You may wrap your feet snugly but not tightly with an elastic bandage to further reduce the swelling for 24 to 48 hours. Combine cold therapy and compression with rest and elevation to get the most benefit from the treatment. When the inflammation does not subside after 48 hours, you need to consult with your doctor.
5. Trim Your Toenails Properly
Cutting your toenails regularly is not only good personal hygiene, but it also prevents ingrown problem and accumulation of dirt after a muddy trail run. When they are short, it is just easy to scrub away the dirt from your toes and nails. Trimmed toenails also avoid the pooling of blood under the nails that may result in discoloration.
Trim with the use of nail clippers, and there should be one for your fingernails and one for your toenails. The frequency depends on how fast your nails can grow, but it is recommended to maintain a length of about 1 to 2 millimeters (mm). Cut straight across, don’t round off the corners and use an emery board to smoothen the jagged edges.
6. Dry Your Feet Thoroughly
Your feet are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi when you leave moisture on them. So, dry your feet thoroughly before you put on your socks and shoes. Don’t provide a damp place for the microorganisms to grow. If you are prone to foot sweat, you can apply silicon lubricant or foot antiperspirant to keep them dry.
7. Do At-Home Foot Exercises
If you have weak feet, your running gait is less stable, and you are prone to injuries. Regular stretches and exercises strengthen your foot muscles and ligaments and improve flexibility and stability. They can relieve stiffness, arch pain, and toe cramps. Talk to your physical therapist about what kind of specific exercises you require.