Considering we spend so much time on them – and they absorb more force than any other part of the body when we run – our feet are one thing we tend to neglect as runners. And we shouldn’t. Prone to blisters, infection and, even worse, a number of injuries, our feet need to be taken care of. We teamed up with Matthew Fitzpatrick, a consultant podiatrist from The College of Podiatry and the lead podiatrist for this year’s London Marathon, to get his top tips on how to give runner’s feet the tender love and care they deserve!
1. Opt for a properly fitted running shoe. Go to a reputable sports shop and explain to the specialist the sort of miles you’re doing each week. Running shoes for long distance should be half a size bigger than your normal shoe size as your feet tend to swell during long runs. Don’t hang onto running shoes forever if you use them regularly. Your running shoe has approximately 250-500 miles of life as, over time, they become stretched and lose their shock absorbency.
2. Don’t forget the importance of good socks. People often focus on the shoe and neglect the type of sock, but ill-fitting socks are one of the main causes of blisters. Blisters sound minor but they can have a massive impact on your performance as they can be very painful. While we would usually recommend a cotton sock for everyday wear because they are breathable, they are not the best material for running as they absorb moisture. A damp foot increases the risk of painful blisters. Go for a specific running sock, made from a material which will help wick away sweat. Make sure the sock fits properly so it isn’t bunching or too tight on your toes.
3. Use a square knot for your laces. The last thing any runner wants is for their lace to come undone during a race. This cannot only cause potential injury but can also disrupt your pace. New research from the University of Berkeley in California has shown that if you use a “square knot”, where the left lace is crossed over the right and the bow is crossed the opposite way, right over left, you significantly reduce the risk of this happening.
4. Know how to identify and treat athlete’s foot. It’s called athlete’s foot for a reason, as it does tend to affect people who do a lot of exercise. Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection, which is most likely to occur if your feet regularly experience damp, warm conditions – common if you’re running! It tends to affect the area between the toes but can appear on any part of the foot. Look out for persistent flaking and red skin. This can look either ‘wet’ or ‘dry’; both are forms of athlete’s foot. You can get over-the-counter remedies, including treatments that specify they only need to be applied once; this tends to be the most convenient solution as often people forget to apply other treatments regularly, which can mean they are not as effective.
5. Don’t run through pain. If you experience frequent and ongoing pain in your feet, ankles and legs when you run, this could be a sign that your footwear isn’t right or you have a musculoskeletal issue in your lower limbs that needs looking at. Don’t run through pain as this can cause long-term damage. See a podiatrist who will be able to diagnose the issue and advise on treatment.
To talk to a podiatrist (also known as a chiropodist) about the options available regarding treatment, you can contact an NHS podiatrist or a private practice podiatrist. In both cases, always ensure that any practitioners you visit are registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) and describe themselves as a podiatrist (or chiropodist).
Visit feetforlife.org for more information about foot health and to find a registered podiatrist near you.