Whether you’re taking on a marathon or running a 5k park run, your feet will make or break a run and a problem could put you off the activity for good.
“Runners’ feet take a real battering, as you will know if you have recently run a marathon or even if you are new to running,” says GP Dr. Gill Jenkins, an adviser to Excilor.
“Feet bashing on hard ground, sweaty socks and shoes can all play havoc with your feet.”
So, what problems could you face and how can you stop them hindering your progress?
“Hot and sweaty feet usually mean blisters. As you start to run, your feet sweat, and the moisture in your shoes can cause friction, leading to blisters, says Joss Baldwin, Runners Need buyer.
“Investing in a pair of running shoes made from breathable fabrics, with mesh vents on the uppers, boost airflow and allow any moisture to escape your shoes – reducing your risk of blisters,”
“It’s also important to ensure your running shoes fit properly – shoes that are too tight or too loose increase the chance of rubbing and friction, only adding to the likelihood of blisters occurring.”
Many trainer brands and sports shops such as Runners Need and ASICS offer gait analysis to help you choose the best-fitting shoes.
“While breathable trainers are vital, wearing the appropriate socks will reduce your risk of soreness and rubbing. Invest in a good pair of technical run socks to keep your feet cool and wick the moisture away from your skin. Features to look out for are technical and sweat-wicking fabrics, mesh ventilation under the arch, as well as a snug fit,” says Baldwin.
“Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that occurs between the toes but can spread to the top and bottom of the foot if not treated. It can be very itchy and sore if the skin breaks, plus it spreads quickly in damp environments including running shoes but also changing rooms,” says Jenkins.
It should not be ignored, and there are plenty of quick and easy treatments available in pharmacies.
“When you’re first getting into running, foot problems can be common, but the good news is they are mostly avoidable,” says Baldwin.
“Sometimes it is simply a case of getting your body used to the new activity, but all the time we see new runners in shoes that aren’t right for them. Overpronation, where your foot rolls in excessively, poor fitting and worn-out cushioning can cause a myriad aches and pains in your body. All are really easy to correct by getting a proper shoe fit and gait analysis.”
There are different shoes for different activities that can protect your ankles and feet.
“Everyone’s feet are different and that means everyone’s running shoe requirements are unique. Choosing the right shoe for your run can help avoid ankle pain,” says Baldwin.
“If most of your training is on pavements, then road shoes are for you. With more cushioning than trail or lightweight race shoes, these will provide shock absorption to minimise your risk of injury. If you’re running through soft, muddy trails, you’re better off in a pair of trail shoes with a deep tread that offers better grip and ankle support, vital for running on uneven terrain. On pavements, however, these shoes will be uncomfortable as the studs will press into the soles of your feet and will wear away quickly.”
He adds: “If you’re doing a little of each, you should consider a hybrid running shoe. These shoes work well on both roads and mixed trail conditions with a balanced mix of grip and cushioning.”
“Toenail problems are commonly caused by a fungal infection and research for Excilor showed 49% of sufferers not aware they had a fungal nail infection,” says Jenkins.
“Infections are incredibly common, especially with runners, and are also highly contagious, thriving on damp feet. Symptoms include discoloured nails and itchy and painful feet. Treat nail infections immediately as they can worsen rapidly.”
Similarly, running long distances may damage the toenail itself.
“The longer we run the warmer our feet get,” says Baldwin. “As they get warmer, they actually start to swell and become bigger. It is really important to take this into account when selecting your shoes.
Typically we need to size our running shoes bigger than our normal shoes to stop our toes hitting the end of the shoe, which can cause our toes – and toenails – to become sore or bruised.”