Taking care of your feet
Posted on January 25th, 2018
When I was just starting with long runs, I suffered a lot because of various foot conditions. I developed huge blisters on my soles, my nail beds blackened and the nails were falling off. And all this just because I did not know how to care for my feet properly. Only as time went by did I discover a couple of simple rules which I have been sticking to ever since, and which have helped me to improve my foot condition. Here they are:
A few days before a long run I cut my toenails to prevent both the blackening of the nail beds and subsequent falling off of the nails. Of course, I also make a point of purchasing appropriately large shoes. During long runs, the foot gets swollen, particularly on hot days. A long time ago, I used to have black toes after each marathon, but now it happens rather rarely.
Similarly, a few days before each race I prepare by lubricating the skin of my soles twice a day, usually in the morning and in the evening. Some runners use particular lubricating substances; several athletes even mix their special ointments. For me, any lubrication will do the job. However, I have to warn you that this practice does not suit everyone. Some runners tape their entire soles instead before a run. Others use toe socks. And allegedly, some don't need to care for their feet at all.
I lubricate the soles once again just before a race, but this time with just a tiny layer, which I thoroughly distribute across the feet. If the layer is too thick, the foot will move to and fro in the shoe during the run. A small layer suffices because the feet are already lubricated thoroughly from the previous days. Also, during the race, I try to keep my feet dry as long as possible. I pack a sufficient reserve of spare socks in my backpack, and I change them immediately after I feel my feet are getting wet. Whenever the situation allows, I also have a drop-bag containing dry shoes somewhere along the trail. But I have also run several times with a spare pair of shoes in my backpack. Given my body proportions, an additional half a kilo does not burden me at all.
During an ultramarathon race, when I feel some hot spots on my sole, I stop running and apply a plaster. So far, I have been using the brand Compeed, which serves as a second skin layer. By doing so, I either prevent a blister from developing, or I slow the entire process substantially. However, these plasters are not suitable when a blister has already formed. Usually, during very long runs they stick to the skin so firmly that it is impossible to remove them without tearing off the entire blister. In fact, until recently I hadn't come up with a suitable strategy for what to do when a blister has already developed. My current practice is to prick the blister and then cover the spot with an adhesive bandage. However, I am not sure at all about the correctness of this solution. The spot usually hurts a lot and as I try to avoid the pain, I often develop some joint or tendon issue. Physicians advise against perforating a blister and just covering the spot with plaster instead. But this way the blister gets even bigger, and in the end, it ruptures anyway, so it does not work. At least for me.
Recently, as I have been continually increasing the length of my runs, the soles of my feet have hardened. I stopped blistering on the soles, but instead, blisters started to develop on the sides, where the stiffened sole meets the soft skin. I found out that it is necessary to remove the calluses with a pumice stone, so that's what I have been doing. So far I don't know how this is going to work. And how about you? What works for you?
Modified text from a book on running that will be published in the spring.