Running and jogging

Our feet absorb more force during running than any other part of the body. Our feet propel us. Our feet have the absolute power to make running comfortable - or miserable. Our feet ache, blister, sweat, crack, peel, itch and smell. Our feet are essential. So why is it that so few runners give their feet proper care? We stretch our hamstrings, tighten our stomachs and carbo-load our muscles, but barely pay any attention at all to our feet.

This is especially misguided when you consider that, after the knee, the foot is the most frequently injured body part.  What's more, foot anomalies can lead to pain and injury of the shins, knees, hips and lower back, making us injury-prone when we really shouldn't be.

So, what should runners do to take proper care of their feet? Here are some pointers:

Find the perfect fit

Proper shoe selection is vital to foot health - not merely the shoe brand and model, but the fit. Bad shoe fit can cause a multitude of problems for your feet, everything from numbness and burning to blisters and painful calluses. Shoes that are too short can cause black toenails. Shoes that are too narrow in the forefoot can cause pinched-nerve pain, bunions, corns or calluses. Shoes that are too wide allow the foot to slide around, which causes undue friction, which in turn can lead to blisters. It’s not easy to get the right fit. But it’s essential that you do. And, even when you do get the right fit, don’t forget that shoes shrink over time, particularly if you get them wet often (either from excessive sweat or precipitation). And while your shoes are shrinking, your feet are getting bigger and wider. Not overnight, mind you, but over the years your feet can expand two full sizes or more. Which is why you should be measured every time you buy shoes.

A tip: If you run every day, invest in multiple pairs of running shoes so you always have a dry pair. And pay attention to the condition of your shoes, especially the midsole, the section between the outer tread and the "upper" that your foot fits into. If the midsole is compressed, brittle or feels unusually hard, it's probably worn out. If so, don't use the shoes for running. Gardening maybe, but not running.

Take care about socks

Ill-fitting socks are one of the primary causes of blisters. Wet socks and cotton socks can also cause blistering. Fortunately, socks cost significantly less than shoes, so you can probably afford to experiment. But do make sure you try on socks with your running shoes, and keep in mind that the pair that works well in a summer 5K may not provide the same comfort during a marathon or keep your feet warm in winter.

Soften your skin

Some runners are particularly prone to dry feet, which invariably leads to painful cracking feet. The solution: use a moisturiser every day. Rub it into the skin until your feet feel soft and smooth. The best time to moisturise your feet is immediately after a bath or shower.

 Keep them dry

Some people suffer from dry feet, while others suffer from sweaty, wet feet, which makes them more prone to athlete's foot and other fungal problems. Keeping your feet dry isn't easy, as you have approximately 125,000 sweat glands in each foot, and each foot can produce 4 ounces of moisture a day.

For this problem, lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking socks are the way to go. But you'll also have a moisture problem in winter if you slog through slush, snow and puddles too often. Again, moisture-wicking socks will help, along with a pair of waterproof trail-running shoes. As always, make sure your shoes are dry before wearing them again. And never wear damp socks.

Fight that fungus

Athlete's foot is a fungal infection that causes itchy scaling, redness and blisters on the toes and soles of the feet. It hurts, too. Athlete's foot and other foot fungi thrive in dark, moist areas, which is why keeping your feet clean and dry is the best prevention. Other preventive measures: change your socks often, use antiperspirants on your feet and wear flip-flops in public changing rooms.

Practice damage control

It's the old story: If you attend to a foot problem right away - be it a blister, callus or tender area--chances are good it won't develop into something debilitating.