How much do you pay attention to the health of your feet?
If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that many runners don’t think about their foot health–unless something is wrong!
Foot health is definitely important to us as runners, so maybe it’s time to start thinking about your feet a little more often, eh?
A Biomechanical Masterpiece
The human foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, 100+ ligaments, and 29 muscles that all have to work together for the foot to do its job.
Our feet really are pretty incredible, especially when you think about what we ask our feet to do every time we go for a run.
Obviously, they are our contact point for the ground. They absorb and transfer force with every stride. Our feet adapt to subtle changes to the surfaces we are running on, almost always subconsciously, to keep us upright and moving forward.
As such, taking care of our feet is kind of important, eh?
Basic Foot Health for Runners
I’m not going to do a real deep dive into foot health for runners today, there really are some simple things you can be doing to take a little better care of your feet.
If you’re already doing some/all of the suggestions below?
Awesome, keep it up!
Not doing much to take care of your feet?
These suggestions will hopefully help you change that!
Fighting Foot Friction
Is there a more common foot malady than friction?
Certainly, there are more serious foot-related issues, but I’d wager that foot friction is probably more common than just about anything else.
Not sure what I’m talking about?
Blisters. Callouses. Hot spots. Etc.
All are the result of foot friction experienced while running.
So why is fighting friction a component of basic foot health?
Because when blisters develop during a run, we have a tendency to alter our gait a bit to reduce the rubbing that is occurring.
And altering your gate can lead to all manner of more serious issues further up the chain.
If you’re prone to getting blisters on your feet during a run, I’d encourage you to take steps to reduce the rub.
- New shoes
- Add a layer of protection
- Lube up
You may need to go with more than one of the above options, depending on where you’re rubbing.
If you don’t really have any blister issues, does that mean that friction isn’t a factor for you?
Callouses are our body’s natural defense against friction.
Over time, callouses build up in areas of the body where friction is common.
This is a good thing!
That said, you want to make sure your callouses don’t get out of control.
Shaving your callouses semi-regularly is enough to maintain the protection from the rubbing without letting them grow too large.
Soft Tissue Support
What about the muscles of your feet? How do you go about taking care of them?
The same way you take care of just about any other muscle: stretching, strengthening, and massaging.
Many of the muscles associated with your feet aren’t candidates for isolated stretching.
Stretching the muscles that are located in the lower leg but that attaches below the ankle is helpful.
The most obvious example of this is your calf/Achilles tendon.
A tight calf can impact your foot health, so stretching the calves is a good idea.
If you notice any particular feelings of tightness when you move your foot/ankle in different directions, that would be a sign that some of the other muscles (peroneals, anterior tibialis, posterior tibialis) may need a little attention.
Strengthening the muscles in your feet is a little more straightforward.
Using your toes to pick up small items is a great way to strengthen your feet.
You can also do towel scrunches, where you place the ball of your foot on one end of a hand towel and use your toes to pull the other end toward you.
A little message on the bottom of your feet is almost always a good time.
How does this help maintain/improve your foot health? By increasing blood flow and breaking up adhesions between the different tissues in your feet.
Manual massage or various massage tools are both options for a good massage.
- A 3 for 1 Combo
As far as I’m concerned, going barefoot around the house addresses all three of aspects of foot health in one shot.
I’m not saying you can’t/shouldn’t do a little extra stretching or strengthening or massaging of your feet once in a while, but by regularly going barefoot you’re definitely supporting the soft tissues of your feet.
The Role of Shoes in Foot Health
What role does footwear play in foot health for runners?
That will be the topic of next week’s quick tip, so stay tuned!
How Much Do You Focus on the Health of Your Feet?
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