I know, I know, there is nothing more you want to read about on Monday morning than feet. It’s not a glamorous topic, and if you are running they are likely pretty ugly. But those bad boys deserve some special attention. After all, our feet are the main reason we are able to log all those miles.
When we walk our feet strike the ground approximately 1700 times per mile each time at an impact of 3 times our body weight. Switch your speed up to a running pace and you are now landing with an impact of 10 times your body weight every time you strike the ground.
If you weigh 170 pounds that adds up to 1700 pounds of force with every foot strike. This means that if you run a mile, you will accumulate a total of 2,890,000 pounds of force!
With staggering numbers like those it is not a surprise that 75% of Americans will suffer from some foot ailment during their life time. Approximately 15% of all running injuries each year occur somewhere in the feet. Women are four times as likely as men to suffer foot injuries.
There are a few things you can do to take care of your feet and help them keep you logging all of those miles:
Your feet have 250,000 sweat glands (I know, gross!). That’s a lot of sweat. If you aren’t properly outfitted for a run this could become quite a problem. Cotton is not your friend when it comes to socks. Cotton absorbs and does not wick. Once all that sweat absorbs into your socks, they will start to chafe and form blisters. Make sure you wear synthetic fibers or a combination of cotton and synthetic for your socks. Right now wool is a good way to go if you are in a cold weather climate. I’ve said it before, I highly recommend Smart Wool brand socks.
I didn’t know this about cotton until recently. The other day I wore a cotton gaiter on a 10 mile run in single digit temperatures. Half way through my run the gaiter actually froze into a solid mass. Not only did this ruin the whole point of keeping my face warm but it also froze my neck from the ice it had collected. Wool and synthetics good, cotton bad!
One of the most common foot ailments runners come across is plantar fasciitis, caused by small tears and inflammation in the fascia under your foot. It can be detected by a dull or even sharp pain in the heel, often most pronounced in the morning when you first put weight on your feet.
To avoid this in the first place it is essential that runners have properly fitted shoes with plenty of arch support. Once you are running it is important to follow the 10% rule. As you build a training program, avoid increasing your mileage by more than 10% of the total from the prior week. This will allow your body ample time to both improve and recover.
If you do find yourself with this injury there are a few things you can do to help speed recovery. First, take some time off of running and stay off your feet as much as you can. Massage your feet, especially your heel, deeply with your fingers. Freeze a water bottle and roll it under your feet in the evening. Use a golf ball to roll under your foot for additional massage. Wear crocs around your house to take any additional impact off of your heel and the fascia. I also recommend an insole made for runners that will provide some additional lift in the arch. Super Feet makes insoles for all different purposes including long and short distance running, ice skates, and even high heels. You can find them in almost any running or shoe store. Check them out at www.superfeet.com.
Most importantly, stretch your calves. Do some downward facing dogs and stretch your calves with your feet up against the wall. A lot of plantar injuries stem from tight calf muscles. Trust me…I have been there!
It is very important for any runner to take some time to care for your feet. Make sure you wash them thoroughly and dry them every evening after you have finished your exercises for the day to help avoid bacteria or fungus from forming. Clip your nails often to avoid pushing them into the front of your shoes which causes bruising and can make your nails fall out. Wear proper socks and shoes (go to your local running store for some assistance). Find time to massage your feet and wear something to keep them safe and comfy when you are at home.
As a side note, when I was writing about the multitude of sweat glands in our feet it reminded me of an embarrassing moment I had one summer. It was really hot and humid and I was determined to get a long run in. I was sweating so hard that I could hear the sweat squishing in my shoes. It was one of many times that I have actually been disgusted by my own self as I ran.
A car pulled up along side me and slowed down and the driver just stared at me. I kept my cool and avoided shouting something or waving hand signals, but I was furious. When I arrived home I immediately went to take a shower and then I saw myself in the mirror. I had soap suds all down my legs! When I washed my running clothes the night before they must not have gotten completely rinsed out in the wash. All of that sweat had brought out the suds in my clothes. No wonder the driver slowed down. I can’t even imagine what he thought was on me!