Happy Feet Happy Running!
Mark Kleanthous has been running for more than 30 years. He ran in the first London marathon in 1981, has crossed the finish line in more than 1,050 races including 75 marathons, and has covered more than 52,500 miles. Not bad considering his first experience of competition was finishing last in a schoolboy cross country race! He has learnt the hard way and has written this information to help you look after your feet when preparing for races like the Marathon Des Sables.
Your feet need to be in tip-top condition before every running event especially if you are considering a marathon or a longer race such as the Marathon Des Sables. They will absorb impacts of up to one and a half to three times your body weight as you land and propel yourself forward. Blisters are most likely to form in those places where your feet absorb impact and are one of the reasons foot care is so important: without happy feet, you won’t be able to continue running. In fact, feet are the second most likely part of our bodies to sustain an injury after our knees.
Let’s look at a few factors that may impact the health of your feet:
• Choosing the Right Trainers
• Foot Ailments & Prevention
• Blister Treatment
• Strengthening Your Feet
Choosing the Right Trainers
Although most runners will be aware of stretching and nutrition in preparation for a race, not many are aware of the importance of choosing the best fitting shoes for their particular running style. Below are a few points you might want to consider:
- Choose proper running shoes: To prevent spending many hours with blisters spend at least 20 minutes choosing a pair of running shoes for your running style.
- Try different sizes and brands: Sizes will vary depending on the brand. Some will be too narrow or too wide despite being labelled the same size. Find the size you are comfortable with.
- Try them on at the end of the day: doing this allows you to take into consideration the swelling that occurs after a long run. You don’t want to find you have bought shoes a size too small!
- Wear the socks you will be using: as above, you want to take into consideration anything else that might increase the size of your shoe including orthotics if you use them.
- To avoid blisters and any other complications, you might want to buy shoes that appear to be one size too big (about half an inch). Many running specialists will have a jogging area or treadmill to help you find running shoes which are perfect for you.
Foot Ailments and Prevention
Problems with ignoring feet can affect your shins, knees, lower back & hips etc due to overcompensation. Issues may include aches, Athletes foot, blisters, dry feet, sweaty feet, dry or cracked skin, itchy feet, hot spots and swelling. Below is some advice on how to prevent foot problems and resulting discomfort that may impact negatively on your running:
- Regular foot care should include the use of a pumice stone: Ideally, use it every night to ensure smooth skin. Foot cream will also help. Moisturize often if you suffer from dry feet. The most productive time is after a shower or bath or before bedtime.
- See a podiatrist at least 8 weeks before your event for a thorough check-up. Treatment can include treating calluses massaging and/or moisturizing feet and cutting toenails correctly.
- Cut your toenails. Make sure your toenails are short in the final 8 weeks before an event. Toenails should not extend past the end of your toe and they should be shaped in line with the toe not straight. In-growing toenails can cause blisters or calluses. Split nails, black toenails in the final 8 weeks can cause problems on race day.
- Avoid using anti-chafing cream for every run whilst training; you will need to establish which areas may rub. Once you know what your problem areas are, use anti-chafing cream or powder on your feet and inside your socks.
- Calluses & Corns should be covered with adding padding within the shoe.
- You have more than 125,000 sweat glands which produce many ounces of sweat a day. If you suffer from sweaty feet, use Epsom salts and cold water straight after a run, soaking them for up to twenty minutes. This will help dry your feet.
- Self-massage using fingers golf or tennis ball, ideally weekly. Initially, visit a therapist for a thorough check-up and learn how to self-massage your feet.
- Reflexology is another treatment that may help maintain your feet in good condition. It is believed that our feet mirror other parts of our body, so you may find massaging a particular area of your foot eases another part of your body!
If time allows, small blisters should be left for 24 hours to heal on their own. If the fluid has not naturally been absorbed then clean the skin area with disinfectant, puncture the blister with a sterilized needle and drain off the fluid. Your priority is to save the skin. Apply anti-chafing and cover with tape and dressing depending on the size of the blister.
If you experience blisters and rubbing during a race, do not delay treating the problem as it will only worsen if you keep running. It is better to stop and address the issues rather than having to treat a potentially bigger problem later. During races such as the Marathon Des Sables, medical support is very good and you can get help at check points to treat blisters and other medical problems.
Strengthening Your Feet
Weak feet can contribute to running injuries. You can strengthen your feet in a number of simple ways.
- Walk barefoot at home, just 10 minutes 3 times a week can make all the difference.
Tips of Toes Alphabet Exercise:
- Write each letter A to Z on the floor with the big toe.
- Session A to M right toe then A to M left toe then N to Z right toe, then N to Z left toe.
- Progress to A to Z 26 letters of alphabet right toe, then 26 letters A to Z left toe.
- Stand on the edge of a step (first step of stairs). Rise and lower in control, dropping the heel below the step (2 cm) 10>20 times. Rest 30 seconds and repeat 3 times
- Put a towel under your feet. One foot holds the towel down while the other toes grab on and pull for 20>30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat 2>3 times.
- Alternatively you could grasp a pencil ping pong ball or golf ball with your toes for 20>30 seconds.
- Stand with feet 15cm apart. Rise up and down 15>20 times. Rest 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. Once you find this easy, try doing this while holding on the edge of the stairs.
About Mark Kleanthous
Mark is a full time performance coach and can help you with individual training plans to help you achieve your potential and your goals. If you need injury prevention advice or wish to improve your running economy then get in touch with Mark at http://www.ironmate.co.uk/contact-us
Training & Nutrition information can be found on Mark’s web site www.ironmate.co.uk