Weight loss, good cardiovascular health, and lean muscles are all benefits of running. But with so much good news, it can be easy to overlook the problems that accompany our kickass cardio routine: our feet take quite the beating. With warm weather drawing out our toes (and pedicures), now is the time to get those uncomfortable and unsightly foot problems fixed.
We spoke with Dr. Emily Splichal, a Manhattan based podiatrist, Human Movement Specialist and Author, for the best ways to prevent and cure common foot problems for runners. This summer your toes will be sandal-ready, even after your next run!
“Often referred to as a “runner’s toe,” the black toenail occurs due to micro-trauma of your foot sliding forward in the shoe, leading to bleeding under the nail. This is often associated with ill-fitted shoes (too big), laces that are not laced properly or if the runner has a long second digit. If the shoes are a little big and the foot is sliding forward, then I advise patients to lace their shoes through the top eyelet or hole. This eyelet is actually designed for keeping the shoe tighter against the top of the foot to prevent sliding forward.
If you get a black toenail and it has just happened, then you can go to a podiatrist to have it drained. If it is older (more than a day or two) then the blood has dried and there is nothing that can be done. See a podiatrist if the condition worsens.”
READ MORE: 3 Ways Your Shoes Are Messing Up Your Toenails
“Calluses develop due to excess pressure. If a runner gets recurrent calluses and has never seen a podiatrist, it may be worth getting an biomechanical examination. Different foot types create calluses in very predictable patterns. Although calluses cannot be completely removed, orthotics can often slow the formation of calluses.”
“Blisters form due to friction. If there is any excess motion between the foot and the shoe or the foot and the sock, blisters can form. I’ve seen runners get blisters on their big toes because of how they are pushing off. If blisters are recurrent I also suggest getting a biomechanical exam by a podiatrist, as there is always a reason for blister formation. If you do get a blister I advise either going to a podiatrist to have it drained or you can do this at home easily enough, just ensure clean technique.”
READ MORE: Ask a Scientist: Is It OK to Pop a Blister?
“A bunion is a shifting of the first metatarsal (long foot bone) relative to the great toe. Often associated with flat feet or hypermobile feet, the bunion forms due to a lack of stability in the midfoot. As the bunion begins to form, the different small muscles in the feet continue to pull the great toe over, exaggerating the formation of the bunion.
Although the Internet wants patients to believe that bunions can be ‘cured without surgery,’ very few bunions can actually be corrected by stretching, etc. A person can use a bunion stretching strap (my favorite is Bunion Bootie), which will keep the joint flexible and decrease pain. However, it will not permanently correct/reverse a bunion. Surgery is the only true correction.”
READ MORE: Try This DIY Moisturizing Milk Pedicure Recipe
“Ingrown toenails can be caused by an improper cutting technique, injury, shoes or the way in which the patient walks. If a person starts to feel an ingrown toenail, the most important thing to do is leave it alone! All patients try to cut the corner out and treat the ingrown nail themselves (which seldom works). A person can soak the foot in Epsom salt and warm water and make sure to wear shoes that don’t put pressure on the nail. However, if this doesn’t alleviate the pain then it is best to see a podiatrist.
To avoid getting an ingrown toenail, I recommend patients to not cut their toenails too short and to cut them square shaped, not round. Also, ensure that shoes are not putting pressure on the top or side of the nail. Some women’s ballet flats and heels are notorious for putting excess pressure on the great toenail.”
Interview has been condensed. Dr. Emily includes this information and more in her go-to guides Everyday Is Your Runway and Barefoot Strong.