They’re your most valuable piece of exercise kit, but it’s easy to overlook them unless there’s a problem. Here’s how to keep your feet in tip-top shape for running
Ma de up of 100 moveable parts, including 26 bones and 20 muscles, our feet are one of the hardest- working parts of our body. And when you run, you’re pushing them even harder. As you pound the ground, you’re increasing the force going through your feet to between three and five times your weight depending largely on what speed you’re running at and your style. And, with the average runner taking 800-1,000 strides per mile (1.6km), your foot will hit the ground 5,000 times during a five-mile (8km) run. For a 68kg runner, each heel strike is generating about 272kg of pressure. That’s a total of 1,300 tonnes by the end of the run! Which is why we’ve enlisted two podiatrists to share the foot care tips you need to ensure your feet go the distance.
Podiatrist Emma McConnachie from The College of Podiatry Photo Gallery
Cut your nails correctly ‘Use nail nippers rather than cutters, because they have a small cutting blade, meaning you can be more precise. Cut your nails straight across and not too low at the edge or sides. The corner of the nail should be visible above the skin. Cut your nails after a bath or shower when they are much softer.’ Rotate your trainers ‘Wearing the same pair of trainers every day doesn’t give them a chance to dry out, which means they can become a breeding ground for bacteria. To help keep your shoes clean, prevent them from becoming smelly, and to reduce any bacteria, clean the inside with surgical spirit on a cotton wool pad.’ Check your feet ‘Common symptoms to look out for are yellow, brittle and discoloured nails – which can be a sign of a nail infection – flaky skin that may be dry, red or itchy – which can be a symptom of athlete’s foot – and any changes to the structure of your foot, such as swelling to the joint around the ball of your foot.’
M atthew Fitzpatrick, consultant podiatrist from The College of Podiatry and lead podiatrist for the Virgin Money London Marathon.
Replace your shoes regularly ‘Over time, running shoes become stretched and lose their shock absorbency and support. Replace your running shoes once you’ve run 300 to 500 miles (about every four to six months for someone who runs 20 miles a week). Have your running shoes fitted by a reputable sports shop and tell them the distance you run and on what surface, such as pavements or fields. Wear half a size bigger than your normal shoe size, as your feet swell during long runs.’ Keep your feet dry ‘Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that’s most likely to occur if your feet regularly experience damp, warm conditions – common if you’re running! It tends to affect in between your toes, but can appear on any part of your foot. Look out for persistent flaking, red skin. This can look either wet or dry; both are forms of athlete’s foot. You can buy over-the-counter treatments that only need to be applied once.’ Don’t ignore foot pain ‘Ongoing and frequent pain in your feet, ankles and legs when you run could be a sign that your footwear doesn’t fit correctly, or you have a musculoskeletal issue in your lower limbs which needs addressing. A throbbing pain in the arch of your foot, pain in your heel and localised pain on the top of your foot are common complaints. These could indicate plantar fasciitis, tendonitis or even a stress fracture. Visit a podiatrist to help avoid long-term damage.’
Heel pain What it might be: Plantar fasciitis Causes: The band of tissue that connects from the Achilles tendon to the underside of the foot contracts when relaxing. Pain is felt when weight is put on the contracted tissue – caused by standing for an excessive time, long-distance running, being overweight or by tight calf muscles. Foot pain clinic: Do calf stretches, wear supportive footwear and don’t walk in bare feet. If you have heel pain, wear footwear that raises the height of your heel by 1cm until the pain subsides, or pop a heel cup into your shoe. Avoid long walks or high-impact exercise until you recover. If it persists, see a podiatrist. Ball of foot pain What it might be: Metatarsalgia Causes: This is pain where your toes meet the metatarsal bones in your feet. It’s usually due to increased pressure on the ball of the foot, but could be caused by badly fitting footwear, high-impact sports, being overweight or an unusual bone structure in your foot. Foot pain clinic: Wear shoes with well- cushioned soles or shock-absorbing insoles such as Sofsole Women’s Athlete Sport Insole (from £25; amazon.co.uk). If you get metatarsalgia, rest your feet and avoid activities that make the pain worse. If there’ swelling, pop an ice pack on the area for 20 minutes a few times a day. If it’s sore or swollen after a few days, see a podiatrist.
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