The Long Run, Part II: Post-Marathon Foot Recovery
Posted by Jenn F. on Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
Yesterday we talked about how to get your feet ready for your marathon. Now let’s skip ahead and imagine that you’re finished with the race. Hooray! Congratulations! You made it! It’s over! What about your feet now, though? After putting 26.2 miles on them in one day, they may need some recovery help. Let’s see what you can do to make your feet feel better after a marathon.
Change your shoes If you have a longer trip home from the race end, put an extra pair of clean socks in your bag, and a pair of soft shoes that can easily fit on your swollen feet. You’ll want to change into these right after the race. This is also a good idea if the weather is damp or if you know your feet tend to sweat a lot–you always want to spend as little time as possible in wet shoes and socks.
Put your feet up After you’ve gotten home, taken a shower, gotten into some comfy clothes and had something to eat and drink, you’re probably going to lie down (or collapse down). Try to make sure your feet are elevated above your heart to help the blood and fluids that have settled into your feet circulate away from them. Put some pillows under your feet to elevate them. This will make your feet feel a lot better, I promise. Make sure you put your feet up like this for about fifteen to twenty minutes each day for the next few days.
Take care of blisters Check out your feet for blisters and see if any need care. If you have a small one, less than an inch long or wide, and fairly flat, then basically leave it alone. You can put a gauze pad on it or a doughnut-shaped blister pad to take pressure off the area. In a few days it will just harden up on its own.
If it’s a larger blister or bulging full of fluid, you can drain it. Make sure you’re in a clean environment, for example, sitting on the edge of your bathtub, not sitting on a bench at the bus stop. Take a sterilized needle (one that’s been washed off in alcohol or an antiseptic solution) and poke a tiny hole in the blister–never, NEVER rip open a hole in your blister. Gently press on the blister to push the fluid out, until the area is flat and completely drained of fluid. Wipe off the blister and apply an antibiotic ointment, then cover the area with a band-aid or gauze bandage. Change the band-aid as needed and keep an eye out for redness or signs of infection. It should heal up in a few days. If it doesn’t, see a doctor to find out what’s going on.
Pay attention to arch pain If you notice pain in your arches after the marathon, you may be developing plantar fasciitis. Try icing the painful area and take some ibuprofen or aspirin to help relieve inflammation and swelling. Plantar fasciitis often comes from tight calf muscles, so also try some calf stretches. If your arch pain lingers, see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) for an examination and treatment plan.
Ease back into it There is so much advice out there about how and when to begin running or exercising again after a marathon. Some say stay off your feet as much as possible and let your muscles recover for a few days afterwards, while others recommend a light jog or walk the day after. I think in the end it’s up to you and how your body feels–I recovered embarrassingly well from marathons, and went for light runs the next morning. That’s because I felt zero pain or stiffness or achiness in my feet. If you do feel those things, give yourself a break. If you don’t feel up to running but want to make sure you’re doing something, try biking or swimming (if you don’t belong to a gym, this would be a good time to use the trial periods or free day many offer to attract new members). When you do feel ready to run, don’t go from one mile back up to ten–work your mileage up gradually; if you can find some softer surfaces to run on, try those to give your feet a little break as you get back into your routine.
If you’re reading this before your marathon, good luck and don’t forget to take care of your feet! If you’re already finished, congratulations for being alert enough to google “post marathon foot recovery!”
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.