Look after your feet!

The Chinese have a saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.Of course, the flipside of this is that a journey of a thousand miles also ends with a single step too. It would be nice if the last step was one that didn’t involve blisters or lost toe-nails.

Although footcare is especially important when when it comes to marathon or ultra-running, no matter whether you are a runner, a walker, a footballer, a triathlete or a cyclist (and so on) –  almost all sporting activities require healthy, functioning feet.

Look after your feet – and they will look after you.

Footcare Basics

by William Sichel

For us runners our feet are the “tools of our trade”, or so you would think.  Yet I have known top international athletes who ignore their feet!

Everybody’s feet are different and what works for one may not work for another. Indeed what works in one race may not work again for the same runner!  You can never drop your guard and always keep learning how to best care for your feet.

Having said that, in the most part, it pays to keep your calluses down and to keep your feet soft and supple.  The main reason for this is that if you do develop a blister, it is easy to get at and treat.  If you have heavily callused feet and get a blister underneath then your race is over.

The basics of good foot care are:

  • Have a regular pedicure

About once a week do your own pedicure or every now and then treat yourself and have it done professionally.  After a shower lightly dry your feet then file down your calluses.  You can use a metal ‘cheese grater’ type scraper or a sand paper type board. Both can be effective.

Trim your toe nails short and check each toe for nail condition and for any signs of fungal infection or ‘Athlete’s Foot’ between the toes.

Trim away any dead skin or left over blisters.

Finally give them a good massage and finish with a good foot cream.

If you spot something you are not sure about then make an appointment with a good chiropodist to get professional advice.

  • Practice & experiment with shoes and socks

You can’t spend too much time trying out different shoe and sock combinations.  This is essential to try and find out what suits your feet.  You also need to understand how your feet behave in the wet, in the heat and in specialist situations like sand and off road.

  • Give your feet special attention before a race

Many a good race performance has been ruined by foot problems including blisters, lifting toe nails etc and yet all are avoidable and shouldn’t really happen.  I finished a recent very tough 7 Day race with no toe nails lost.

About a week before the race do the pedicure described above.

Starting three days before the race, Vaseline your feet every morning to help get them as soft as a baby’s bottom by race day.

The night before the race check feet again and this time file the edges of your toe nails right down so that when your draw your finger back against the edge of your nails you can’t feel any burr or nail edge ie there is nothing to ‘catch’ or snag against sock or shoe.

On race morning apply a final coating of vaseline or better still a silicon-based cream, which is water repellent as well.

  • Read the ‘bible’ of foot care

The best book ever written on foot care for runners and hikers is called “Fixing your Feet” by John Vonhof.  I met the author after the 2006 Badwater Ultramarathon when he kindly used his skills on my feet.  Get a copy, read it and then read it again.

You can search Amazon UK for a copy of Fixing your Feet by clicking this link

  • Lubrication

Whilst Vaseline is a good general lubricant and widely available there are better and longer lasting products on the market especially for the feet.  I recommend a silicon-based lubricant for the feet as this also helps to repel moisture which can only be a good thing.  Look for products such as Hydropel or SportsLick (available in the UK in small tubes).  SportsLick also contains antiseptic ingredients so helps to heal your feet as you go.  These products can also be used as lubricants on other areas of the body as well.

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