Running a marathon is a great feat. In order to succeed, you’ll need to train and prepare properly and it can take months to get into the type of shape that marathons require. What many runners don’t take into account is the health of their feet and how important it is to not only train your body and mind, but to take proper care of your feet before, after, and during running.
Check Your Shoes
The correct size of your shoes will make preparing for and running during a marathon much more comfortable and safe. Many people don’t realize that the health of their feet is absolutely vital to everyday life as well as for marathon running. The wrong size will cause unnecessary soreness and could cause corns and bunions, which will make running difficult.
Dr. Velimir Petkov, a leading podiatrist in Clifton, NJ and medical director of Premier Podiatry states “Getting a size larger than your actual foot size can actually ensure comfort in your feet during long runs. As you endeavor in a long distance marathon, your feet tend to swell and enlarge and therefore in order to prevent any unnecessary friction and discomfort, you should allow extra room in your shoes for your feet to breathe.”
You should also make sure that your shoes are in good shape before the marathon. While you don’t want to have to break in a new pair during the marathon, you’ll need to make sure your shoes aren’t worn out from months of training. Your shoes can quickly get torn apart when you train, so you should make sure there is no splitting in the heel or the toe area of the shoes so that you don’t risk tripping during your runs.
Train on Softer Ground
Shock absorption is important for your feet and legs when you’re an avid runner. Shock can lead to pain or tightness in the plantar fascia, a thick structure that supports the arch of your foot and acts as a natural shock absorber. While concrete and pavement offer very little shock absorption, while grass and gravel reduce the demands on the plantar fascia. By training on grass or gravel, you’ll reduce your risk of injury and improve your endurance without the need for dealing with foot pain after a long training session. Your marathon will most likely take place on concrete or pavement, so it’s important to limit your training to softer areas.
Stretch and Massage Regularly
If a calf muscle gets too tight, a strain is put on the plantar fascia, which can lead to pain in the calves and feet. You can easily reduce the stress on the plantar fascia with stretching and light massage of the feet and calves, which will also help reduce tightness and pain. In order to reduce pain and improve flexibility and endurance, stretching before and after training is advised. Proper warm-up stretching primes the muscles and tendons for exercise. A simple five-minute warm-up paying special attention to the calves, hamstrings, quads, and feet will allow for a more comfortable and safe run.
Skin Care Is Crucial
Many runners fail to take care of the skin on their feet. As you train, your feet will toughen up and you may notice increased dryness, flakiness, and waxiness. Over time, your skin can crack and lead to open fissures that can get infected. Cleansing and moisturizing your feet regular will help you maintain the health of your feet and prevent you from missing out on further running opportunities. Foot-specific moisturizers are best for runners as they are created specifically to maintain foot health.
As a runner, you may also have experienced painful blisters. Blisters can happen from wearing the wrong running shoes that may be too tight for your feet. While it’s important for your feet to remain supported, rubbing can create painful, bloody blisters that prevent your ability to run and even walk.
Dr. Petkov adds: “Blisters can be some of the worse things that can happen to an athlete or a long distance runner. It can literally make you want to quit and not continue. Therefore, blister prevention is key. Please make sure to apply sufficient foot powder to your shoes and feet in order to prevent excessive sweating. Also wear highly durable nylon free athletic socks that will be able to absorb the sweat that would cause excessive friction and blister formation.”
For occasional blisters, you can cover it with a blister pad or band aid to let it heal on its own. You should never pop a blister on your own as it can lead to infection. Instead, make sure to wash the area and cover it with ointment and a band aid.
Calluses and Corns
Calluses and corns can also cause pain and inhibit your ability to run. Calluses and corns develop to protect sensitive areas of skin. While calluses are typically painless, they can grow to the point where they need to be filed down for comfort. On the other hand, corns are a hard, raised patch of dead skin. They can be painful and can form around pressure points on the feet where bacteria can get in and cause a potential infection. Both calluses and corns can affect your ability to run, so it’s best to see a podiatrist before your marathon to be treated so that running can be safe and comfortable.
Training for a marathon can cause damage to toenails. Many runners lose entire toenails from running and they take months to grow back. From constant contact with inflexible footwear, any runner can lose a toenail. Blood blisters can also develop under the nail cutting off its oxygen and causing the death of the nail.
Nail damage is common for runners and it’s important to take care of this part of your foot. You should never pull off a loose nail, but clean and cover it with antibiotic ointment and a bandage. If pain and swelling persist, it’s advised to show it to your doctor. Continuous pain associated with your toenail can prevent you from succeeding in a marathon. To prevent toenail damage, your shoes should provide lots of space in the toe box, measuring at least a thumb’s width between the tip of your shoe and the start of your toes.
Switch It Up
Running every day can take a toll on your feet. When you go into the marathon, you’ll want to have as little pain as possible from training so that you can run to the best of your ability. Instead of training by running every day, you can get your cardio in by doing other tasks such as biking, swimming, and other forms of exercise. These other forms of exercise will help you work other muscles in your body and give your feet rest so that you can gain the endurance needed to achieve success and reach the finish line.