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Get your feet ready to run

female runner tying shoelaces

With the spring running season fast approaching, the College of Podiatry is providing advice to runners on how to look after their feet as their training intensifies in the final few weeks before race day.

Matthew Fitzpatrick, lead podiatrist for the London Marathon and Provost of the College of Podiatry, says: “When you run, your body weight is multiplied by up to seven times, with your feet bearing the brunt of this impact at every stride – and over the course of a marathon, half marathon or 10km that’s a lot of stress on your poor feet! The key therefore is look after your feet and do what you can to prevent – or at least minimise – some of the problems and conditions that typically affect runners.”

Matthew reveals his top tips for keeping your feet healthy and comfortable before, during and after a running event – whether it’s a marathon or 5km Park Run.

The College of Podiatry’s Top Tips for runners:

1) Don’t change your running shoes too close to race day – as tempting as it may be to treat yourself to a sparkling new pair of trainers for your big race, resist the urge, as you want your feet to feel comfortable and accustomed to them. It is advisable to wear them for a good five or six weeks before a race to make sure the new trainers are comfortable. The number of miles or runs you may need to do depend on your usual activity.

2) Get your running shoes fitted by a specialist – go to a reputable sports shop and explain to the fitter that you are doing long distance running. Trainers for long distance should be half a size bigger than your normal shoe size as your feet tend to swell during long runs. Don’t hang onto running shoes forever if you use them regularly. Your running shoe has approximately 450-500 miles of life as over time they become stretched and lose their shock absorbency – but again this is linked to the level of activity you may normally undertake.

3) Don’t scrimp on socks – people often focus on the shoe and neglect the type of sock, but ill-fitting socks are one of the main causes of blisters. Blisters sound minor but they can have a massive impact on your performance as they can be very painful. While we would usually recommend a cotton sock for everyday wear because they are breathable, they are not the best material for running as they absorb moisture. A damp foot increases the risk of painful blisters. Go for a specific running sock made from a material which will help wick away sweat. Make sure the sock fits properly so it isn’t bunching or too tight on your toes.

4) Know how to keep your feet dry to avoid athlete’s foot – it’s called athlete’s foot for a reason, as it does tend to affect people who do a lot of exercise. Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection which is most likely to occur if your feet regularly experience damp, warm conditions – common if you’re running! It tends to affect between the toes but can appear on any part of the foot. Look out for persistent flaking, red skin. This can look either wet or dry; both are forms of athlete’s foot. You can get over-the-counter remedies, including treatments that specify they only need to be applied once – this tends to be the most convenient solution as often people forget to apply other treatments regularly, which can mean they are not as effective.

5) Don’t run through pain – if you experience frequent and ongoing pain in your feet, ankles and legs when you run, this could be a sign that your footwear isn’t right or you have a musculoskeletal issue in your lower limbs that needs looking at. Don’t run through pain as this can cause long-term damage. See a podiatrist who will be able to diagnose the issue and advise on treatment.

6) Stretch those lower limbs – general calf and lower limb stretching should be an integral part of your training programme when warming down. This helps with ensuring you allow them to recover as well as help prevent tears and localised damage.

Matthew and his team of 65 podiatrists are part of the 1000-strong London Marathon Medical Team who will be on hand at the finish line on The Mall on 22nd April providing expert care to runners.

Matthew says: “It’s a really wonderful experience being part of the London Marathon and one of the most exciting aspects of the event for us as podiatrists is that you just don’t know what problem or condition is going to be presented to you. What you know for sure though is that those feet are going to be sore after running 26.2 miles around the capital.”

“Over the years I’ve been volunteering at the London Marathon I’ve seen and treated a variety of foot problems, for example, nails that have come off, a blister that covered almost the entire sole of a foot, cramps, fractures, strains, tears, plus general aches and pains. Without doubt the most rewarding thing is seeing podiatrists doing what they do best – getting people back on their feet and able to make those few steps from the medical tents to the family ‘meet and greet’ area”.

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