Ever start a run, log a few miles, and then start to notice a nagging ‘hot’ feeling somewhere on the bottom of your foot? It might be a minor annoyance, it might be a sharp pain, and it might even force you to take a walking break or completely change your stride and gait to avoid putting pressure on that hot spot. This is common and mostly preventable by taking the right precautions — from wearing the right shoe to pre-run stretching.
Essentially, a hotspot is a blister-in-waiting, and it’s usually a sign the blister is going to be a more painful, deep one rather than your usual blister caused by your ankle meeting the top of a new pair of shoes.
“Hotspots on runners feet tend to include the Achilles tendon, the ball of the foot and the base of the big toe where it attaches to the foot — the area where bunions can form,” says Jaclyn Fulop, a board-licensed physical therapist specializing in sports medicine and orthopedic rehabilitation. “Hotspots form from an increase in friction and can cause blisters, so it’s important to make sure you are wearing the proper running shoes, which is dependent on the arches of the foot and your unique gait and running pattern.”
You can help decrease this issue with regular at-home pedicures and skin maintenance, using a pumice stone on the parts of your foot that are prone to calluses to keep dead skin from building up into thicker calluses that can make hotspots more painful.
Having flatter feet can also make hotspots more likely. “A flat foot can lead to a condition called hallux rigidus, which is a decrease in motion in the big toe that often leads to hotspots and bunions in the long term,” says Fulop. “When the big toe lacks extension, the foot will compensate by whipping the heel to clear the foot during the transition to swing phase in your run.” If you’re prone to bunions, you may need to consider your running shoes more carefully.
The proper running shoes should include three components, explains Fulop. There should be appropriate shock absorption, proper cushioning and structural support. You may need to try on a lot of pairs before you find the ones that fit you properly and support your feet correctly.
If you have a flat foot with excessive pronation, Fulop recommends a running shoe with a larger toebox. “This prevents the skin from breaking down due to excessive friction from the decrease of range of motion in the big toe,” she adds. (This might also be helpful for runners with normal arches but wider toes.)
As shoes wear out, the cushioning begins to pack down, so if you have a pair of shoes that’s worked well for 600 miles and suddenly, you’re finding most runs leave you with hotspots, it may be time for a new pair. You also may want to check your socks: A sock that’s lost elasticity and fits more loosely might be rubbing differently and causing more friction.
READ MORE > WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU RUN IN OLD RUNNING SHOES
Fulop recommends implementing these static stretches post-run to prep your feet for their next workout and help them stretch from the work they’ve put in already. She recommends dynamically and statically stretching from toes to hips for optimal movement patterns: Just because hotspots happen on your feet doesn’t mean toe stretching alone solves the issue. But it’s a simple place to start.
Try this toe stretch post-run or anytime: Stand with your hands on the wall and your feet staggered, with the one you’re focusing on behind you. Rise up onto your toes, putting the majority of the pressure on the big toe. You should feel a stretch on the underside of the big toe. Repeat on both sides.
There’s a chance your running form needs some work. You can start by using a smart shoe and the MapMyRun app to check in on your stride. If you’re truly experiencing painful issues during most runs, Fulop suggests scheduling a gait and running analysis with a physical therapist. “He or she can assess your stride and identify your gait type, then make suggestions on the proper shoe to wear and any corrective measures or exercises,” she says. (You may even be able to do this via a telehealth service by filming yourself running and consulting virtually with a physical therapist.)
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” and set your next goal — you’ll get a schedule and coaching tips to help you crush it.