Show Your Paws Some Love

Feet

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.

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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.

Feet3

Feet4

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.

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By taking some time to treat your feet well, they will likely pass the love on and keep you going for many more miles.

Happy running!

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!

Let’s Have A Sole Talk

Wishing you Happy Feet!

Wishing you Happy Feet!

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.

These are made for ski and snowboarders so they have excellent compression in the feet and stay up.

These are made for ski and snowboarders so they have excellent compression in the feet and stay up.

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.

For my distance running I wear the pink insoles.

For my distance running I wear the pink insoles.

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!

At least it didn't get this bad!

At least it didn’t get this bad!

A Pair of Crocs at Night- Runner’s Delight

Crocs1

Seriously!

Two summers ago I was logging long miles and two-a-days for the first time in my life.  All was going well, minus what I thought might be a stress fracture in my toe (but that doesn’t count), when I finished my first trail run with my husband.  Suddenly my achy feet had taken a turn for the worse.  I had a hot stabbing pain in my heel that I just couldn’t shake.

Admittedly I knew right away what it was but I was in the first stage of a runner’s injury: DENIAL.  I looked on every website for an alternate answer.  I took a day off followed by a treadmill run, because in my messed up runner’s head that was the prescription for shaking the nagging injury.

Finally, after two months of excruciating pain from the moment I woke up, I went to a podiatrist.  I thought I would trick him by giving him my symptoms, and he would magically tell me there was a shot for that.  And then he said it…..

“You have plantar fasciitis.”

No!!!!!!  I had read about plantar fasciitis in Runners World in the past and often thought, “That sounds horrible.  Thank goodness I’ve never had that.”  Well there I was.

And then he delivered what I thought was the next bad news.  “I want you to go out and buy a pair of Crocs.  Wear them whenever you are at home and out of your sneakers.”

I hated Crocs.  I would turn my nose whenever I saw them and think they were the ugliest things ever, save when Mario Batali pulls them off with his vests (I am a huge fan of The Chew).

I bet he has some healthy fascia!  (Note that he can do it with wine)

I bet he has some healthy fascia! (Note that he can do it with wine)

And thus began my nightly routine of walking around our home in Crocs.  Once you get past the funny look, these bad boys are pretty amazing.  The comfortable shoes have plenty of room for your toes and a nice cup for the heel.  It provides the padding and support your feet need to help the tissues repair.  They are not going to cure your injury, but it will provide the protection for the bottom of your foot against the floor as it heals.

During physical therapy I asked when I could go back to bare feet.  “Never,” was the response.  Once you have plantar fasciitis, just like a sprain or a strain you are more susceptible to re-injury.  Just suck it up and slip them on your feet when you get home.  To be honest, I have gone on vacation and forgotten to bring my Crocs along.  I can tell a noticeable difference in my feet when I go barefoot for too long.

To make it more appealing, Crocs come in other versions than the big orange ones you see Mario wear.  Check out my cute, somewhat strappy pair.  They have little “jewels” on the side and come in lots of different colors.  You can look slightly fashionable in these and they are coming out with more styles all the time.  Any pair of rubber Crocs will do the trick.

A word of caution.  I may have been a professional skater, but I have a serious lack of coordination anywhere off of the ice.  When wearing Crocs on wooden floors, I sometimes forget to pick my feet up as I walk (let’s pretend its from all those years on the ice) and I scuff my feet with the rubber of the shoes and the floor.  This causes me to trip.  If you have any amount of coordination whatsoever, you should be fine.  But I add it as a disclaimer for all my not so graceful friends, especially after a glass of wine.  By the way, my husband finds this to be pretty amusing and I can’t blame him.

I can do this.  Yes that is me.

I can do this. Yes that is me.

But I can't do this!

But I can’t do this!