If you’re an athlete or a gym rat, you likely spend even more time on your feet than the average person. For example, runners’ feet hit the ground close to 40,000 times during a marathon. So if you want to stay healthy, you need to make sure your feet do, too.
Not surprisingly, foot problems are some of the most common complaints among fitness buffs. (In my running club, people even brag when they lose a toenail!). Taking care of your feet is a must if you want to keep up your exercise routine, though, and these tips can help keep you on your toes:
1. Get a good pair of shoes. A quality pair of athletic shoes is a non-negotiable piece of equipment. Make sure your shoes are comfortable and fit well. If possible, it’s best to get professionally fitted for shoes at a specialty store for your sport. Experts will examine your foot and stride and recommend the shoe that’s best for you. Replace your shoes often, too. Most of a shoe’s shock absorption is lost after wearing them for 250 to 500 miles.
2. Choose your socks wisely. Make sure your socks don’t rub in certain places in order to avoid blisters. If you’ll be active in the heat, choose socks made with moisture-wicking material over cotton ones.
3. Care for blisters. Blisters are a result of friction and pressure, and are especially likely to pop up in moist (sweaty) conditions. Wearing good shoes and socks can help avoid them, but unfortunately, most of us still get blisters from time to time. When you get one, put a bandage over it. Resist the urge to pop it, because that can lead to an infection. If the blister pops on its own, clean the area well, apply a topical antibiotic ointment and cover it with a bandage until it has healed.
4. Watch for calluses and corns. Calluses and corns are areas of thick skin that are made up of dead skin cells, caused by pressure and friction from skin rubbing against part of the shoe. They can also be a sign that your foot is taking too much force in that spot. Well-fitting shoes may help you avoid corns and calluses, but if you do get one, there are over-the-counter products that can help relieve discomfort and treat the area. If these products don’t work, see your doctor for help.
5. Keep your toenails short. Trim your nails regularly, and see your doctor if you get an ingrown toenail or develop a painful black toenail. Black toenails happen when blood pools underneath the nail, often as a result of pressure from shoes that are too tight. Eventually, the black part of the nail will grow out or fall off.
6. Don’t ignore pain. Foot pain is not normal, and exercising through heel, arch, toe, or other issues can just make foot problems worse. Back off your workouts at the first sign of injury, and if your pain doesn’t go away after a few days of rest and ice, get help from your doctor. You may benefit from different shoes, orthotics or other treatments.
How do you avoid foot discomfort? I use my running shoes for running only, and walk the dog in other shoes. This lengthens the life of my running shoes.