Making Your Feet Work For You

Runners: Tips for Keeping Your Feet Healthy This Season

Summer is the season of running, and it can be the most enjoyable time for those good long runs. However, many runners come out of winter and start hitting the pavement, only to develop heel pain, leg pain, or trouble with their feet. If you are hoping to get the most of this summer season for developing your running without experiencing any foot injuries, here are tips to keep your feet healthy.

1. Start slow

Even if they've been dedicated to your training over the winter, many people like to increase their speed and their mileage to take advantage of the beautiful weather outside. It's important that you don't do too much too soon as you increase the length and intensity of your workouts. Gradually add mileage if you're hoping to run further. If you're planning to increase your speed, start training at speedy intervals and increase the interval time slowly.

Don't underestimate the importance of the slow run. Many people worry about their time per mile, but the slow runs are what help to train your muscles and tendon in the your feet to put up with the stress of more vigorous workouts. Plan to do at least one (but preferably more) long slow run each week. 

2. Choose the right shoes

Many runners push their running shoes to the point of no return. Good running shoes can be expensive, so it makes sense to get the most out of your investment. However, old shoes can eventually decrease in support, and your feet will feel the difference. If you're running about 15 miles a week, you should plan on replacing your shoes every six months or so. 

Also, it's important that you choose shoes that give your toes enough room to provide the lift and balance in your gait during your run. Many runners choose shoes that are too small to handle the swelling that comes with increased blood flow to the feet. Your toes will feel this pressure, and it leads to hammer toe, losing toenails, and uncomfortable blisters. It's best to choose at least a half size larger than your regular street shoe size when you're buying running shoes. Pay attention to the toe box. Some shoe designs are too narrow in the toes, and the crowding is what causes hammer toe.

Finally, you might like to show off your lovely running calf muscles in some killer high heels, but this is a bad idea when it comes to caring for your running feet. You can stress your feet unnecessarily and cause stress injuries that will only be compounded when you need your feet to perform later when you're running. Don't let the time off the track take away from your health and performance while on the track. 

3. Spend some time cross training -- barefoot

Shoes are essential for most runs. Even if you're a minimalist runner, you still need some sort of barrier between your feet and the ground. However, every runner should cross train to help improve their overall fitness. If you can, choose a workout that lets you remain barefoot. You could jump rope or do some cardio dancing without shoes on. This lets you strengthen your feet in a low-risk way, providing the proper alignment of foot to ankle to leg. 

4. Increase your steps

The next time you go running, try to count your steps for one minute. If you have a slow cadence (less than about 160 strides per minute), you are likely running with poor form and trying to cover too much ground with a single stride. This means your foot hits the ground at a bad angle, increasing your risk of developing stress fractures. If you are worried about your form, have it analyzed at a running store. Try to increase your cadence and maintain your speed by taking smaller steps at a faster pace.

For more information, contact a center such as Cortez Foot & Ankle Specialists.