Your Complete Guide To Caring For Your Feet

Before I started marathon training, I almost never thought about my feet. Why would I, right? They’re all the way down there, on the ground. Never mind the fact that most of the jobs I’ve had in my life have required my feet to bear the weight of my body for eight-to-ten hours at a time and I used to come home, after particularly long shifts, with aching, throbbing feet. They were fine.

I figured that foot soreness was just normal, and really, it is. But when I started running, my inattentiveness to my feet over the prior 27 years of my life started adding up. I hurt my ankle on my first long run because I had a poor stride for the shoes I was using. A few weeks in, my arches started cramping up, and I found out that my metatarsal bones were prone to jamming out of place. My trainer had to give me weekly adjustments and horrifically painful massage therapy to keep my feet in shape. I rolled my ankle over a chunk of concrete that I didn’t see while I was out running at 5 a.m., just three weeks before the marathon. And then, finally, the kicker: I bought new shoes because my training shoes were clearly worn out two weeks before the marathon, thinking that two weeks would be enough to break them in. Instead, I found out that they were absolutely the wrong shoes for my feet, and I wound up with an injury in my toe that was keeping me from even walking. (I finished with the help of pharmaceuticals. Hooray, medical science!)

All of which is to say: It’s really easy to injure your feet if you haven’t taken good enough care of them.

Dr. Kaye Lagdaan, a podiatrist in Chicago, told me that my naïveté about and neglect of my feet is hardly unusual. “I see a lot of overuse injuries due to bursts of high intensity workouts with no stretching routine, no warm up, no cool down,” she said. “Especially when spring starts, running gets really popular and without the proper stretching, warm-up, and cool-down it can really take a toll on the feet and ankles. People are highly motivated to run longer, harder and faster but they sometimes forget that rest days, stretching the muscles that have worked so hard, and cooling down are all a part of being an efficient athlete and preventing injury.”

So what, I asked her, should we be doing to take care of our feet –  in general, but especially as athletes? “Stretching and strengthening the tiny muscles of the feet is something that people can do to help improve overall foot health and foot function. Ignoring these foot muscles is like leaving out upper body workouts! There are 20 intrinsic muscles in the foot that are layered and compartmentalized and the stronger they are, the more work they can handle to take pressure off the joints and bones of the feet and ankles. Things like toe lifts, toe abduction, picking up marbles with the toes all help strengthen these tiny but very important muscles.”

I asked her, as well, about whether podiatrists are doctors we need to see on a regular basis, or only when there’s a problem. It turns out that most of the time, we can take good enough care of our feet on our own. “If you have pain in your foot and ankle that does not go away within 3 days, you probably need to see a foot and ankle specialist,” she said. Claire wanted to know what runners, specifically, can do to prepare our feet for running. Dr. Lagdaan’s answer was, simply, Wear the right shoes. Here are her guidelines:

  • Properly fitting shoes, not too tight, not too loose and the right support for your foot type are crucial at keeping you injury free.
  • Check that your shoes have enough support where the toes flex and that you can’t fold the shoe in half.
  • Choose a shoe that also doesn’t allow lots of twisting motion. If you can wring out your running shoe like a wet towel, it likely does not have enough torsional support.
  • Make sure the back of the shoe, the heel counter, is strong and not flimsy. If you can fold the heel counter in easily, it will not be able to prevent over pronation while running.
  • The right socks, typically a blend between cotton and synthetics are important to help balance moisture and prevent friction blisters and athlete’s foot.
  • Let your big toenails grow to the right length. Over shortening the toenail can lead to ingrown toenails especially when you are an avid runner.

Of course, there are also some awesome products out there that can help you to both prevent injuries, a few recommendations for which I have in the gallery above. In my incredibly humble opinion, it is 100 percent worth stocking up on them, especially if you work on your feet or run. It’s way better to set aside a little bit of time and money to pay attention to your feet now than to suffer for it with more serious injuries that’ll keep you from doing your job or your hobby later.

So now you have your complete guide to taking care of your feet — tend to those piggies!

Send me a line at [email protected].