Six Tips for Runners’ Feet
Posted by Jenn F. on Thursday, September 27th, 2012
Running is one of the easiest forms of exercise you can do. I love it because all you need to do is put on a pair of running shoes and head out the door. No class schedule to try to fit into your schedule, no accessories to haul around, no big pieces of equipment. It’s just you and your feet.
Ah yes, your feet. Your feet take the most direct punishment when you run; they also have a huge effect on the rest of your body . Here are some tips that can help you get the most out of your feet when you go for a run:
- Don’t overwear your shoes We all have running shoes that we fall in love with, but just as in the world of romantic love, sometimes we love a little too hard and a little too long. While your old broken in shoes may be very comfortable, they can also hurt your feet, as all the support and stability measures of the shoe lose their effectiveness. Trust me, I had been having a lot of foot pain and it never occurred to me that my shoes were past their due date until I noticed that a chunk of the sole had worn out. I got new ones and it’s embarrassing how much better my feet feel. So take a good look at your shoes every so often to check if they’re worn out, especially if you notice some new foot pain. Quit your shoes a little too early rather than a little too late; some people even get new running shoes before their old ones are done and alternate them, so one pair is being broken in while the others are in their final days.
- Socks! When I first started running, I got huge blisters on my heels. I thought my new running shoes were the problem, so I went back to the store where I’d gotten them. The salesperson took a look at the slouchy, cotton socks I was wearing and asked, “Do you wear those to run?” I said yes, and there you go, the answer to my blister problem. It’s important to wear running socks that fit the shape of your feet so there’s no extra material to slosh around and rub your heels into blisters. Running socks also wick away the moisture that can make your skin vulnerable to blisters. I know, many of you are probably thinking, “Duh, of course,” but this really is a common rookie mistake.
- Point in the right direction Make sure your toes aren’t turned too far out or too far in when you run. This throws your body out of alignment and can lead to a variety of injuries. If you know you do this (and you probably do it while you’re walking as well), work on keeping your toes pointed straight forward. Contact a running coach if you’re having trouble correcting this on your own.
- Don’t overstep your bounds I know you’re trying to go faster, but taking longer strides isn’t the answer. Taking big strides where you’re practically throwing your feet out in front of will use up more energy than necessary and will actually slow you down. Keep your feet under you when you land; think more about bouncing off your feet than lunging forward with them. Running with too long a stride can lead to injuries like shin splints.
- Strike out on your own There’s been tons of talk in the past few years about the benefits of barefoot running or running in minimalist shoes, with much of it centered around the idea that running barefoot/minimalist encourages you to forefoot strike or run bouncing off your toes rather than heel striking or hitting the ground heel first as many have been encouraged to do for years. The barefoot running advocates are evangelists who are convinced they have found the right way; many heel strikers think there’s no reason to change what they’ve been doing. When some do and get injured, the barefoot runners just say they did something wrong. I’ve read lots and lots about this and went through my own experiment with forefoot striking. The verdict? I tried to ease into it as they always warn and still found myself suffering from forefoot pain (some of which lingers months later). Instead of going directly back to the heel striking I was taught long ago, though, I just stopped paying attention to how I ran until I realized I was striking the ground with my midfoot and it felt pretty good. So the verdict? If you’re (relatively) injury free and your feet feel good, don’t change what you’re doing. If you want to try something new, and it hurts, stop. Don’t pay attention to the peer pressure.
- Listen to your pain As we’ve said many times before, if you have foot, ankle, or lower leg pain, something is wrong. Don’t ignore it. Take a few days off and see if you feel better. If you don’t, visit a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) to find out what’s going causing your pain. Feet are super-sensitive. Listen to them.
I think running is great in any season, but autumn is particularly wonderful. I hope you get a chance to go out for a run, or a good walk. Just pay attention to these tips so your feet enjoy the ride, too!
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.