I’m talking about feet here. As runners, or walkers, we ask a lot of these little guys. Many of us pound out dozens of miles every week and also spend a lot of time walking or even standing around at work. The combination of all of this can be so hard on your feet. I remember years ago I worked as a hostess at a restaurant on top of pursuing my own athletic goals. Some nights after being on my feet all day I would lay in bed and feel my feet throb.
With everything we ask of our feet every day, the least we can do is show them a little love from time to time. Taking some time now to care for your feet can help you avoid some of the nasty pitfalls like plantar fasciitis.
First, make sure you are wearing proper footwear. Whether you use a stabilizing, minimalist or barefoot shoe make sure you get what works for your running, body type, and gait. For example, I tend to supinate but have run for years and can manage to run upwards of 60-70 miles a week. I was once improperly fitted into a pair of stabilizing shoes. Within days I had horrible shin splints. Neutral is the best fit for me, lesson learned. If you choose to go the minimalist route make sure you speak with someone knowledgeable about the subject and ease into it.
Take 1 minute in the morning to stretch your feet before you get out of bed. This has been shown to help in the healing of plantar fasciitis and can also help you to avoid it in the first place. Sit at the end of the bed and place your foot on your thigh. Use your fingers to press your toes and heel away from each other.
After you run or after a nice warm shower take a few minutes and do some downward facing dogs. This is an awesome pose because it stretches you arms, backs and legs. Taking the time to do some down dogs will stretch out your butt, hamstrings and calves. These are all huge culprits of foot pain. In fact, my tight calves are usually the cause of most of my foot pain. Hold the pose for awhile and allow your body to settle in and feel that stretch go throughout your body. You can then take some time and slowly pedal out your feet to get deeper into your calves.
A few notes on stretching. First it is very important not to do this on cold muscles. Generally you should try to do stretches either after your run or after a nice warm shower or bath. However, downward facing dog is a generally gentle stretch and can be done in the morning as you get moving. Just be very careful and slowly ease into the stretch, let your muscles wake up with you as you settle in. With any stretch it is of utmost importance that you slowly do them. Doing quick or bouncy stretches can cause a “stretch reflex” which forces your muscles to essentially bounce back from the stretch you are trying to do. Basically this type of movement will counteract any actual benefit you are trying to get from the stretch and can cause injury.
Take some time and occasionally give your feet a nice massage. This can help to improve circulation and also move fluids and toxins out of the area. A massage the night after a long run can be a great way to decrease swelling after being on your feet for a few hours.
Finally, take a few minutes and sit on your feet. Sit on your knees and swing your feet behind you, tucked under your buttocks. Rest your tush on your heels and tuck your toes under. This is a very intense feeling but if you can allow yourself to relax and rest here for a few moments it can really stretch your entire foot and remove a lot of that tightness and tension. As you learn to rest in this position you can sit here for up to a few minutes. Just make sure you do this slowly and again don’t bounce.
By taking some time to treat your feet well, they will likely pass the love on and keep you going for many more miles.
Congrats to all the runners who raced this past weekend. A special congrats to my friend Kyle who not only ran an ultra the week before he runs Boston but also won it, coming in second to a relay team by mere seconds!