Training for a Marathon? 4 ways to avoid foot pain

A pair of runners
Most long distance runners can agree that they are at the mercy of their feet.  You can mentally and physically prepare yourself for a marathon, but ignore your feet and you may find yourself sidelined at the next race.  While some foot-related injuries are bio-mechanical (and that’s just the way we were made), others may be the result of something you do have control over, such as choice of shoe gear or even socks. Either way, here are some ways to reduce your chance of injury and keep your feet healthy enough to carry you across that finish line.

1. BIO-MECHANICAL:

Shin splints, arch cramping, plantar fasciitis and/or tendinitis are all examples of biomechanical issues. Novice runners see these problems primarily because of inappropriately paced training. Failure to stretch properly often ends with cramping and shin splints. Often times, these issues are self-limiting and can be treated fairly easily but they will definitely hurt your practice regime.

The Fix:
Slow and steady wins the race and so it is with training. It’s always advisable to stretch properly before and after all workouts. Any specific weak points in your cadence or form should be addressed gradually. If you’ve had an especially rough run, consider post-run Epsom salt baths.

Arch supports and custom molded orthotics assist pain-relief by providing support and sometimes better alignment of the foot in some cases. It’s best to talk to a foot specialist because your foot type is crucial for determining the correct support.  While you’re there, bring in your current shoes (with supports if you use them) and ask if they’re appropriate.  As always, chronic issues should inspire you to seek professional treatment or advice.

2. IMPACT:
Fractures are the most serious problem that a distance runner faces. Usually beginning as a microscopic stress fracture, they can become a full on break if not properly treated.

An acute stress fracture usually comes with pain, swelling, and redness but sometimes stress fractures can happen without your even noticing. From a medical perspective, “running through the pain” is probably the worst thing you can do. Runners who don’t heed their bodies’ warnings may completely break through the bone which can lead to bone displacement. Certain foot types seem to be more prone to stress fractures — very flat feet or very high arched feet.

The Fix:
Fractures often develop because of overtraining. Pay attention to your body. If you feel pain, don’t ignore it and keep running.  Seek medical attention from a foot and ankle specialist or you’ll find yourself trying to sell that bib number you were so excited about.

Properly fitting shoes are key and this doesn’t mean that more cushion is better. Depending on your specific foot type, custom orthotics may help balance the foot and leave you less likely to develop fractures.

3. FRICTION:
Blisters and Sores: Hot spots and pressure points tend to end with blisters and sores. These usually show on the knuckles of the toes, on the side of the big toe and on the back of the heel.

The Fix:
Between runs, keep your feet moisturized, as dry skin is more prone to damage. Definitely focus on callused areas; creams containing urea are especially good at breaking down excess skin. Callus/corn removers should be used sparingly as they contain harsh salicylic acid, which can deteriorate tissue and thoroughly defeats the purpose.

Running socks with protective cushioned areas dedicated to pressure spots can help to limit chafing.  Ill-fitting footwear is the most common cause of friction so (and we’ll probably repeat this) ask a foot and ankle specialist if your chosen shoe is correct for your type.

4. DAMAGED TOENAILS:
There are two types of distance runners: ones who have had a black, painful toenail and ones who will.  The dreaded black nail is caused by bleeding underneath the bed of the nail. It’s usually accompanied by pain and can even result in your eventually having one less toenail.

The Fix:
We can’t say it enough, appropriate shoes for your type are essential. ALWAYS keep those toenails properly trimmed as not only does it make your partner crazy, it is the most likely cause of a damaged nail. Pay attention to the problem nail and specifically look for signs of worsening or infection and seek medical care from if those show up.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any foot and ankle pain or discomfort, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of our foot and ankle specialists.  Please call us at 877-989-9110 or visit us at www.footankleinstitute.com.

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