Running is a popular form of exercise partially because it’s an activity you can do anywhere at any time. While it is a quick way to get fit, too many people incur injuries from taking up running without regard to technique or even proper footwear. Before you hit the trails or even go for a jog around the block, here are some easy ways to protect your feet from injury.
1. Invest in Proper Footwear
When it comes to running, investing in appropriate footwear is the most important first step you can take. While most runners will of course go out and purchase running shoes, many do not know how to look for the correct type. In fact, according to a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, bad footwear is one of the leading causes of foot pain and injury from running. Proper footwear goes beyond a brand name and instead is all about the right fit.
Shoes need to not only be the correct length, but also width. If your shoes are too tight or short, it can damage the toenails and cause discomfort. Likewise, if the shoes are too loose or wide, your feet will slide around and cause unnecessary friction. This can lead to blisters at best and more advanced ailments at worst. Improper footwear can result in injuries beyond the feet, including shin splints and sprained ankles.
While it may seem like overkill, new runners would be wise to visit a podiatrist. These professionals are able to examine your feet and recommend a supportive shoe customized to your body’s needs.
2. Wear the Right Socks
Just when you thought you were through picking out footwear, you’ll need to also consider investing in the proper type of socks. Ill-fitting socks, as well as those made of fabrics not conducive to the sweat and strain of running, can quickly yield blisters and other foot injuries.
Appropriate running socks are lightweight and made of a water-resistant material that will grab moisture away from your feet while allowing them to breathe. This will reduce blister-causing friction or fungus.
Purchase a few different types and brands of socks when you start running. Once you find the style that works best for you, invest in several pairs so you’re always ready to head out with happy and protected feet.
3. Stretch and Warm Up First
It can be tempting to wake up, get dressed, and take off on your run. To prevent injury, it’s best to warm up with some basic stretches first. While many runner stretches are focused on the entire body, most benefit the feet. You can find many pre-run warm-ups and post-run cool downs online, but here’s a simple one to get you started:
- Start by standing up straight with your feet hip-width apart.
- Stretch your arms out to the side.
- Lift one leg off the floor a few inches and hold for 60 seconds.
- Engage your hip muscles to create a long, straight line up your body. Use a mirror to help you achieve this proper alignment.
- Repeat two to four times on each side.
This exercise helps properly align your body, which will relieve pressure from your feet. You may actually feel all of the muscles in your feet and ankles relax as you do this. As you progress into more challenging runs, you can practice this exercise barefoot and on a towel or pillow to provide more of a challenge.
4. Plan Your Runs
Take the time to plan out your routes ahead of time, starting with a short distance and gradually increasing length over time. You will also want to pick appropriate running surfaces for novice runners. Nature runs on dirt paths will be more forgiving on the feet and will help to prevent injuries. More advanced runners can benefit from sidewalk or other concrete runs, as it allows for increased speed. Again, ensure you are wearing proper footwear and running a time and distance that is appropriate for your body, not just your ambition.
5. Pamper Your Feet
The skin on our feet tends to be pretty tough, but runners tend to be susceptible to more skin issues due to the pressure and strain placed on the feet. Runners can experience dry skin, which can lead to cracking and bleeding. The cracks can lead to an infection that can take you out of the race.
Instead, get ahead of this trouble by regularly softening your skin. Rub moisturizer into your feet morning and night. There are also anti-chaffing sticks you can apply to prevent blistering—especially when the weather is warmer and your feet sweat more. Silicone-based lubricants tend to work best.
6. See a Podiatrist
If you are experiencing visible injuries like excessive blistering or cracking to the feet, it is time to make an appointment with a podiatrist. You will also want to plan a visit immediately if you are experiencing pain or feelings of strain beyond the typical soreness that comes with trying something physically new. While a general practitioner can give advice, a podiatrist is much more skilled in foot care and finding effective solutions to any foot injury you incur.
At Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, we are ready and waiting to prepare you for your running—cheering you on the sidelines through appropriate care and prevention from injury. Contact us today to make an appointment and get started on a healthy path toward fitness.