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Runner’s Pedicure: 4 Tips to Care for Your Feet

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The California International Marathon in Sacramento, California. Photograph by Linda Thomas, My Shot

Before I lose my male audience, I’ll go ahead and clarify that no, this post is not about the hottest summer nail polish trends (although I’m totally diggin’ O.P.I’s “A Roll in the Hague”) Don’t worry guys, there’s valuable info ahead about how to keep your “runner’s feet” pampered before you even need the blister bandages … sans hot pink lacquer.

Feet are gross; especially runners’ feet. Blisters, black toenails, bunions, you name it. Feet get nasty; especially when they spend most of the day sweaty and snug inside rosy smelling running shoes. Trail running often wreaks more havoc on our feet than road running. Our feet are not only more prone to blister-inducing lateral movements given the undulating terrain, but they often come in contact with rocks, roots, mud, dust, and other obstacles that can inflict damage on your tootsies. Protecting your feet is not only essential to efficient and pain-free running, but also realistic to achieve with four preventative considerations.

Size Matter
When I help clients shop for new running shoes, I always advise them to “try before you buy.” All makes and models of running shoes vary, so never assume you know your size until you’ve actually laced-up and taken them for a spin. Running specialty stores will allow you to run on the treadmill in the store or take a lap around the block to help with this decision. Running shoes should feel snug but not too tight. A good fit should allow you a thumbs-width between the end of your big toe and the tip of the shoe. Use your own thumb, not the sales associate’s (or your brother who weighs 100 more pounds than you—and consequently has thumbs three times the size of your own). You want this to be a proportionate measure of your individual frame. While this may seem roomy initially, you’ll need this extra space as our feet expand and swell when we run due to increased circulation and body heat generation. This cushion, so-to-speak, is important for downhill running too as your feet will be pushed further down towards the front of the shoe which can cause discomfort and tingling if there’s not enough wiggle room, thus leaving your dogs sore and tender.

Make a “Fist”
As I mentioned, your shoes should feel snug, not tight. One way to make sure you’re not tying your laces too tight is to first slip into your shoes and then make a “fist” with your toes, or simply curl your toes under your feet. Once your toes are scrunched up, then lace your shoes as your normally would. Once you’ve finished lacing them, simply release your toe fist. This will give your feet a cradled environment; yet allow enough mobility within the shoe to combat numbness and rubbing.

Keeping your toenails short not only keeps them from developing a nasty fungus beneath your nail beds, but will also lengthen the life of your socks. Toenails that are too long can often poke holes in your socks leaving those piggies uncovered and vulnerable to blisters and bruising. As petty as they sound, blisters can be one of the most debilitating “injuries” to run through. If a blister becomes painful enough, it can cause you to subconsciously alter your stride, which can lead to imbalances and further injuries. Too-long-toenails can also scratch surrounding toes and consequently, leaving you with bloody socks and risk of infection.

Sock it to Me!
When we run, our feet get hot. So, keep your peds cool by wearing socks that breathe. There are hundreds of socks on the market in a variety of fabrics. You want to look for lightweight, water-resistant materials that either breathe or wick away moisture in order to keep blisters from appearing and odors from being any more pronounced than they have to be!

Megan Lizotte is a decorated elite distance runner and online running coach at She is a three-time World Mountain Running Championships competitor, two-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, 2011 USA Trail Marathon Champion and 2011 USATF Trail Series Champion. She also became the first American woman to win the prestigious Sierre Zinal Mountain Race in Switzerland. Lizotte is sponsored by Montrail and Mountain Hardwear.

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