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The Dilemma of Runner Toes

You know you are a runner when your toes look like they have been through a stampede, says Nandini Reddy

Runners toe-nails always bear the brunt of all the intensive training. As a runner you might have lost a nail, noticed blood clots on your toes, discolored nails or even had bruises in the toe area.

When you run, you hyper-extend your toes and when your foot lands on the ground, the toe hits the toe box of the shoes. Even though the shoes are soft, there is an impact on your toes. So imagine this being constantly repeated on your toes for a distance of 10km, 21km or 42km. The trauma on your toes is a form of micro-trauma that accumulates as the distance increases and results in most of the injuries on the toes.

So because your toes put up with so much stress, how can you protect them better?

Focus on the fit

A proper shoe is vital to ensure that your toes and feet stay healthy. A bad shoe can cause blisters and even numbness of your toes. Ensure your toes have enough wiggle room when you purchase them. Ensure that the toe box is wide enough so that you can avoid problems like blisters, corns, calluses and bunions. Runners need special shoes that support their arches and allow for the feet to swell while running. If the front of your foot is wider then avoid generic shoes and go for the ones you will get in specialty stores where you are likely to find a better fit.

Maintain your shoes

Once you have found the perfect shoe it is important to maintain them. Most good running shoes last anywhere between 500-800 kms. But the deterioration of shoes starts at about 200 kms. If you are running in cold and wet weather, you shoes will last for lesser periods of time because on drying up the shoes might end up shrinking. If you run everyday then it is a good idea to replace your shoes more often or at least have multiple pairs that you use. If you find that your arch support has hardened then you need to replace your shoe immediately. Soles wear out depending on the type of surface your run on. Trail runners need to replace shoes more often than runners who use roads.

Invest in good non-running footwear

In order to protect your toes, it is important that you also invest into good non-running footwear. If you wear daily shoes that are tight on your toes then you will end up damaging your toes further. Dress shoes are generally narrow in fit at the toes, so its important that you buy them in the evening when your feet are already swollen. If you wear heels then you need to understand that your toes will get damaged from the constant arch your foot will maintain.

Socks can be of assistance

Fit is important for socks as it is for shoes. Wet socks and cotton socks are the worst choice to make for running. Acrylic socks are designed for runners and are form fitting so that your toes are better protected against blisters. Invest in multiple pairs of socks and try out various brands before deciding what works for you. Different weather conditions demand different types of socks so if you like to travel and run then ensure that you are carrying the right kind of socks.

Moisturize your feet

Remember to moisturize your feet everyday. Especially before a race and after a race. When you moisturize your feet before a run, its works as a lubricant and minimizes the friction and prevents blisters and scraps. Find one that suits your skin type. There is no generic rule that you need use petroleum or non-petroleum based products. If you have dry feet, moisturizing will prevent a lot of after run aches and pains. Ensure you use the right amount of moisturizer otherwise you will end up with sticky feet which can be very irritating when you are running.

Prevent athletes foot

Athletes foot is a fungal infection that causes itchy scaling, redness and blistering on your toes and feet. In order to prevent this ensure that your feet are dry, you use antiperspirants and wear open shoes when you are not running. See a doctor for anti-fungal medicine and ensure you keep you keep your foot dry and clean at all times.

Cool down after a run

Toes and feet swell after a run, so it would be good idea to soak your feet after a run to ensure that your feet feel better. You can use Epsom salts in cold water to reduce the swelling further. If your feet are still swollen the you need to lay down and put your feet up so that you prevent blood from pooling in your toes and feet. You can also use ice to bring down the swelling but don’t use ice for more than 15 minutes to prevent any damage caused by the ice.

You can also exercise your toes on non-running days with toe raises and toe grabs to help strengthen them. Enjoying your run comes with a lot of homework for your feet. Ensure that you do all these to ensure that your feet stay healthy for every run.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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