Do your feet hurt? If you are in a running training program, especially a half or a full marathon program, you are on your feet a lot! This can go on for months. And it can be hard on your legs, but especially hard on your feet. Your feet really do take a beating!
At the moment I have sore feet (see flip-flip photo above), but I have been trying hard to mitigate the situation. If you’ve been following me on Facebook (here or here) or Instagram, you will see that I was “running” for the Canadian Federal Election. I vowed to run everyday of the election period with the goal of encouraging people to become aware of the big issues and to ultimately vote on Election Day. I ran for all 79 days: from Aug 2 to Oct 19. And probably to no one’s surprise, I’ll keep running ’cause I love it.
Some days I ran over 20K (sometimes for 3 plus hours) but other “rest” days I just covered 1 or 2K. I did have some ulterior motives: I was training for the GoodLife Fitness 8K race in Victoria on Oct 11 and for the Cowichan Autumn Classic Half Marathon in Duncan on Oct 25, (with wine tasting from Zanata Vineyards – more on that in another post, I’m sure). Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention that I went on a 4 day hike of the Juan de Fuca Trail in September with my son, which was 6-8 hours each day, with a heavy backpack, up and down ravines and over and under logs and roots and rocks (it was awesome). All of which, to say the least, meant a lot of time on my feet!
As a result, I have blisters, one blue toe, some calluses, and general foot soreness. I have therefore found myself not walking around in barefeet, like I have been doing most of the summer. Fortunately, with the cooler weather I do not look quite so silly walking around in big fluffy slippers in the house or in nice spongy Sanuk flip-flops on the occasional warm day. I also bought myself some Sketcher shoes with memory foam in the bottom with a wide toe area… best runner friend, ever! On rainy days, my nice-soft-inner-sole Hunter boots are my friends. Now walking around when I’m not running is not so painful (see photo). But during the runs, I use some new much thicker socks or I double up on thinner socks.
Luckily, I have none of the most common foot problems: plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma (I actually did have this, but the following exercises completely cured it), achilles tendinitis (had this once, too), or metatarsalgia. If you suspect that you are affected by any of these painful conditions, I encourage you read about them, at the links provided, and check with a health professional if further help is required. Many of the problems listed above can be prevented or mitigated with some good foot stretching and strengthening exercises.
The number one way to prevent many of these conditions is proper running shoe fit. Get thee to a running store to buy a good pair of running shoes that really feel good on your feet, help with support, and are wide enough or narrow enough for you your tender tootsies. Do this before you start on a running program or at some point during a program if you start to feel feet or any leg discomfort creeping in. I definitely favour a nicely padded-foot shoe (Saucony Triumph), which works for me both on trails and on paved roads.
Here are some specific foot exercises to strengthen your feet and help prevent some of these painful conditions from even starting. Choose one or more to implement regularly – daily is good – and they will help keep your feet healthy and happy. In no particular order:
- Toe Pick-ups: I found this great foot exercise at Runner’s World. It made me laugh just watching it, but it is so good for your feet. If you don’t have dice, use small rocks.
- Toe Curls: Another one, also from Runner’s World: toe curls. Use one of those great little “Find Your Strong” towels from Saucony to do this, for both inspiration and exercise.
- Cat and Cow yoga poses: When you are doing pronate yoga moves try to place your feet in a flexion position rather than with the top of your foot or your instep on the mat. These will really stretch the bottom of your foot.
- Planks are not only good for your core, but doing planks (full, upright or from your knees) with your feet flexed also help your feet.
- Walking your dog is not about walking Rover and so much more than down dog. This video shows you how to strengthening multiple body parts, specifically the toes.
- Sitting back on your heels with your feet flexed and your toes tucked under is one very simple and fabulous foot stretch.
- Juicy yoga poses for feet: There are also lots of additional yoga moves that specifically target feet, including these more advanced ones.
- Whole leg strengthening (too many videos and websites to chose from here) – ankles, calves, shins, quads, hamstrings and glutes – this is kinetic strength, can help greatly in foot injury prevention and overall running improvement.
- Walk around with barefeet or just with socks if you can (weather and terrain dependent) between runs or at least wear shoes with less support, e.g. flipflops, to help strengthen the midfoot.
- During your run try to shorten your stride and increase your cadence. This will lessen the load on your feet with each foot strike.
Try some of all of the above foot strengthening exercises to help prevent foot injuries. Do them daily. Do them while you are watching TV. Do them with your kids or cats or dogs. Do them indoor or outdoors. So many options!
However, every once in awhile, perhaps following a big race, treat yourself to a pedicure or a foot massage. You so deserve it and so do your feet.