Ask any runner if they have a warmup routine, and they’ll probably say “yes.” Whether or not they actually do the routine — well, that’s an entirely different ballgame. One routine they should have, but likely don’t, involves foot care. That’s right: Your feet are critical to keeping you running, but we rarely take the time to invest in one of our biggest essentials.
Here, we tapped experts to get the rundown on six ways runners should be taking care of their feet.
INVEST IN THE RIGHT SHOES
The right pair of running shoes can help you stave off injury and stay comfortable mid-stride. To get the right shoe, it could be helpful to consult with an expert. “If you have the means, go to a reputable running store that has knowledgeable staff,” suggests Dr. Robert Berry, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine expert. “Staff should be capable of fitting you in the right shoe, especially since no one foot is alike. You wouldn’t start out on a long road trip with worn or misaligned tires. The wrong shoe can lead to injury.”
It’s also critical to replace them regularly. Experts conventionally say most shoes last runners between 300–550 miles, and then, the midsole begins to break down. From a time perspective, you’ll also often hear a comparable time measurement of 4–6 months.
READ MORE > THE ANATOMY OF A RUNNING SHOE
You never want to spread yourself so thin that your training expectations are unrealistic. If you do, that puts you in the fast lane to injury. “Set goals for running speed and other variables such as course difficulty, training time and total miles per week that feel manageable,” says Dennis Shavelson, DPM, of Lifestyle Podiatry. Rather than slashing through goal after goal, Shavelson recommends adding in “plateau time” and staying at your new training level for some time to strengthen and observe possible injuries.
“Decide if you are ready to set another, even higher goal, add it to your current training on alternate days with lower speed, distance or time,” he adds. “This will give you time to monitor the new schedule.”
INVEST IN PROPER SOCKS
It may be the last thing you think about when it comes to your go-to running gear picks, but the right pair of socks can make all the difference. “The right sock can prevent blisters, too-sweaty feet and fungus,” says Mohammad Rimawi, DPM, AACFAS. Plus, the right socks also have extra padding in high-impact spots, which can decrease the load on the joints of the feet and help with running on uneven or hard surfaces, he adds.
GET AN ANNUAL CHECKUP
Just like your car needs regular checkups every year, so does your body. If you’re going to invest a lot of time in your sport, it’s important to see a podiatrist for maintenance, suggests Shavelson, citing that over time, many athletes experience predictable pains, injuries, deformities and performance issues in the feet and up the posture that can be prevented. “Simple treatments including structural tapings, pads, foot orthotics and foot type-specific training program can be a major help.”
TAKE A CLOSE LOOK AT YOUR FEET REGULARLY
You’re likely doing all you can already to prevent lesions such as blisters and extra moisture from accumulating; however, we also want to be conscious of preventing dry, cracking and callused skin. Rimawi suggests performing regular skin checks of both your feet and treating them accordingly.
READ MORE > RUNNING STRONG STARTS WITH HAPPY FEET
INCORPORATE FOOT-SPECIFIC STRENGTH AND STRETCHING EXERCISES
When it comes to stretching and strength training, it can be easy to neglect your feet. This can prove costly in the long run (pun intended). “Each foot contains 19 muscles, 33 joints, and over 100 ligaments that work simultaneously to provide you with the support and stability you need,” says Rimawi. “Eventually, they can become overworked and conditions such as tendonitis and plantar fasciitis may occur.”
To avoid this, regularly perform foot stretching and strengthening exercises. Good examples include heel drops and tracing the alphabet with your foot.
Whether you want to run your first mile or set a PR, having a plan gets you there faster. Go to the MapMyRun app, tap “Training Plans” — you’ll get a schedule and coaching tips to help you crush it.