With the warmer weather here, you and many others have possibly laced up sneakers (sorry … running shoes) and started running outdoors.
As beneficial as walking and running can be to your overall health, most runners know that you must pay particular attention to the health of your feet.
Anything from the wrong shoes to trying to run too much too soon can actually do more harm than good when it comes to your feet — potentially leading to injury.
Here’s what you can do to ensure your feet are in tip-top shape for running season.
Find the right fit.
Running shoes come in so many styles, brands and colors, you could get hung up on how your running shoes look, but how they fit is the most important aspect of the shoes you choose to run in.
Poorly fitting running shoes can be a real problem for your feet, potentially causing numbness, blisters and calluses.
Some stores offer amazingly cool ways to analyze your particular running gait with video recordings of you running on a treadmill. Bringing in an old pair of running shoes can also help a trained advisor get an idea about what’s best for you.
If your shoes are too short for your feet, they can hurt and damage toenails. Shoes that are too narrow in the forefoot can lead to pinched-nerve pain, corns, calluses or bunions. And shoes that are too wide will allow your feet to slide around, causing friction that can lead to blisters.
When you put on a sneaker, the ball of your foot should match where the shoe bends. If you rise up onto your toes with both shoes on and the shoes bend in front of or behind your big toe joint, it’s not a good fit for you.
It’s also very important to know what type of foot you have when buying new shoes — whether you have flat feet, high arches or neutral feet. Look for shoes that are designed for and accommodate your particular foot type.
If your shoes fit properly, they should feel comfortable and supportive. There should be about a half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the toe box. You don’t want your shoes to be too tight against the back of your heel either — leave an eighth of an inch of space at the back of your shoes.
Replace worn-out shoes.
Just like your car needs an oil change every 3,000 to 5,000 miles to keep running properly, your running shoes need to be replaced.
The average life of running shoes is approximately 350 to 500 miles, but if you’re a heavy runner or your gait isn’t as smooth, you may need new shoes sooner. The wear and tear that all those miles put on your shoes causes the materials in them to deteriorate, and, therefore, lose some of their all-important shock absorption.
Some shoes can shrink over time too, especially if you tend to get them wet with excessive sweat or by running in the rain.
Socks are important too.
No matter how well your running shoes fit, socks can make a big difference.
If your socks don’t fit properly, they can cause blisters. Wet or cotton socks can also cause blistering.
Look for form-fitting socks made of acrylic materials that won’t bunch up or become drenched in sweat while you’re running.
Avoid too much too soon.
Despite wanting to train for a race or simply being excited to hit the pavement now that winter is over, running too much too soon can lead to foot injuries.
Trying to get in too many miles without working up to it in smaller increments can lead to stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and metatarsalgia, which is inflammation of the bones at the ball of your foot.
You may be tempted to clock miles with a long weekend run, but experts say the ratio of that run should never be more than half of your total mileage for the week.
Avoid too much too soon by increasing your weekly distance gradually with no more than a 10 percent increase in total distance per week, according to a sports medicine colleague. Your muscles, tendons and bones get stronger when you run, but you should let them adapt gradually — not to mention your heart and lungs!
Dr. Alfred Casale, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is Associate Chief Medical Officer for Geisinger Health and Chair of the Geisinger Cardiac Institute. Readers may write to him via [email protected]