• Sat17January 2015
  • Preparing your feet for running…far…across the desert…in the heat

    Feet covered up by trainers

    No, I’m not showing you my feet

    Not only are these trainers absolutely brilliant for running trails but they also cover up my dirty little secret – yes, that’s right – my worn and battered feet. I have not been blessed with pretty tootsies – my feet are naturally bony, my toes look like a skeleton covered by skin and lefty (foot that is) is covered by a purple birthmark (not that it should matter but people mistake it for a bruise, burn and so forth).

    The odds have been against me from the off. But since covering long distances and training like a crazy woman for the past god knows how long, my feet have become victims to losing blackened toenails, dry and cracked heels, blisters, hard skin, let’s just say I have it all going on down there. There was the one time that I had to, ahem, paint my big toenail on for my big brother’s wedding. Now is the time to take action because I’m going to be relying on my feet to cross the Sahara desert in (eek) 74 days time. So with about as much enthusiasm as booking an appointment for the dentist, I decided to expose a podiatrist to the claws. And it is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. Here’s why:

    1. Reassurance about my claws

    My feet may look a state but they’re actually “not too bad…for a runner”. Phew, what a sigh of relief! It was like being told my teeth are healthy I just need to floss and brush for longer. The podiatrist told me that despite the only thing really wrong with my feet is aesthetic and with a few tweaks and extra care, I can ensure they’re prepared for running across the desert.

    2. Knowledge about my feet

    It’s hardly a conversation opener down the pub but knowing that my skin is particularly soft and my toes are floppy with a tendency to cross over can help in terms of preparation for a challenge where they will be under pressure. Since I have no control over my toes, I need to wrap them all separately like tidy pigs in blankets to prevent them from overlapping and creating friction and consequently blisters. I should also use a special type of tape Hypafix rather than the hypoallergenic plaster tape usually used as my skin is too soft for the latter. Incidentally, he wrapped two of my toes in the different materials and the Hypafix lasted longer and was more comfortable. Time to practice wrapping them neatly.

    Another thing he identified was the cause of my cracked heels.  He suggested these were not so much down to dry skin but a lack of depth in my orthotics. Indeed, when I stepped into my orthotics my heels created a rather attractive (not) muffin top over the edge, which when compounded with the repetitive motion of running creases the skin into fissures and cracks. The solution? Deeper orthotics to cup my heel securely.

    Some say surgical spirit can toughen the skin – he told me this would not help my particular skin type. Now armed with this knowledge, I know how to prevent problems from happening beforehand.

    3.  Reminder about basic footcare

    In addition to taping my toes with Hypafix and adding depth to my orthotics – the podiatrist also offered three more tips for runners in general. We probably all know what they are but it’s good to be reminded once in a while as they can make a difference to whether you come out of a long distance race comfortably or not.

    Three tips to care for you feet

    1.  Trim and file your nails right down – this will prevent them from cutting or digging in
    2. Use a cream such as Flexitol twice daily (or foot cream containing urea) to soften cracked heels, fissures and generally keep your feet in good nick
    3. Prevent any kind of friction by tying your laces as tight as possible and ensuring you have enough width around the toes – he actually suggested I re-lace my trainers so that the laces go straight across instead of diagonally

    Some of these tips may not be relevant at all to your running preparation but I hope they highlight the importance of  looking after your feet and how some things you read are particular to individuals. Remember to take care of your tootsies if you’re heading into those ultra distances / multi-day challenges as they are one of the deal-breakers when it comes to completing these epic adventures.

    What are your tips for looking after your feet?

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