There are various things you need to keep in mind before you start training that will have a big impact on the health of your feet. A good foot care programme can make training easier, getting you in better shape for race day.
Choose the right shoes
This sounds like an obvious piece of advice, but you would be surprised how many people try and run in shoes that are not suitable. Choose running shoes that are lightweight and structured to allow the foot to connect correctly with the floor. Always avoid shoes that are too tight, with half a size up from your regular footwear preferable. That’s because your feet can swell after exercise, especially when running long distances, which can be a major cause of blisters. Remember to replace running shoes every few months. Your old pair might be comfortable, but the materials and support systems can wear out and add additional pressure to your feet.
Socks are crucial too
As well as the right shoes, you need to team these with the most suitable socks. Choose a pair of sweat-wicking, blister-preventing socks designed for long-distance running. This can help prevent any hot spots or rubbing inside the shoe.
Keep your feet dry
This isn’t always easy, especially if you’re running in the rain or on wet ground, but if you can avoid water getting into your running shoes, this will help reduce abrasion. If your feet do get wet, then it’s important that you get your shoes off as quickly as possible and your feet dry. Always ensure your running shoes are completely dry before your next training session.
Manage hard skin
Calluses will almost certainly develop during your training period, so you must stay on top of managing these areas of hard skin. Although calluses develop for a reason – to protect vulnerable areas – they can become painful and infected. Soak your feet once a day in warm water and remove any excess hard skin with a pumice stone.
Stretch and warm-up
Before every training session, you should, of course, do a thorough warm-up and stretch. This includes the major muscle groups in your legs but don’t forget to stretch your feet. Bend back your toes gently with your hand, curl your toes under and stand on tiptoes to ensure your feet are warmed up and the muscles ready for running. This can help to prevent cramps and strains.
Once you have completed a big training session, remember to take the time to recover. Slipping straight into uncomfortable work shoes won’t be doing your feet any favours. Remember to moisturise your feet, treat any issues, and give them time to recover.
Race day foot care
Several common foot injuries can occur on race day that can either slow you down or bring your race to an early end. These include impact injuries such as stubbed toes and stress fractures. Sometimes these injuries are not preventable and come down to sheer bad luck, but a good warm-up can help to reduce your chances of being on the receiving end.
However, there are other more preventable injuries on race day. These include blisters and calluses. To prepare your feet properly for a race, you can do a few things. First, apply an anti-friction cream to both feet. Don’t be sparing with this; use as much as you can and ensure it is rubbed in thoroughly, even in areas between your toes, as painful blisters can quickly form here.
If you have any existing foot injuries, you must ensure these are taped up and covered. The same goes for any areas where you have commonly suffered irritation, as your feet are about to be put to the ultimate test. You can use specialist runners’ tape to cover areas effectively.
Of course, you must ensure you have the right equipment, including suitable socks and shoes that are not too old but also not too new. Wearing a brand-new pair of shoes on race day is a recipe for blisters and irritation.
You should also carry with you an emergency repair kit for making any adjustments to your foot care regime as you go. As soon as you feel any irritation, you must deal with it to prevent it from becoming a race-ending injury.