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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

Try these podiatrist-approved foot care tips for runners.

With the weather warming up, you, like many others, have possibly laced up your sneakers and started running.

As beneficial as walking and running can be to your overall health, distance runners know that you have to 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,” explains Elaine Rowling, DPM, a podiatrist at Geisinger.

Follow this advice to make sure your feet are in tip-top shape for running season.

Find the right fit

Sneakers come in so many styles, brands and colors, you could get hung up on how your running shoes look, but how they fit is most important.

“Ill-fitting running shoes can be a real problem for your feet, potentially causing numbness, blisters and calluses,” says Dr. Rowling. 

If your shoes are too short for your feet, they can cause black 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,” says Dr. Rowling. “If you rise up onto your toes with both shoes on and they bend in front of or behind your big toe joint, they aren’t a good fit for you.”

It’s 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 accommodate your foot type. If you wear custom orthotics inside of your running shoes, look for a neutral sneaker (no pronation or supination) to accommodate the orthotic. 

“If your shoes fit properly, they should feel comfortable and supportive,” notes Dr. Rowling. “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,” says Dr. Rowling. “The miles you put on your shoes causes them to deteriorate, which results in losing some of their all-important shock absorption.”

Shoes can shrink over time, especially if you tend to get them wet with excessive sweat or precipitation.

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,” Dr. Rowling explains.

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 too quickly can lead to stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis and metatarsalgia, which is inflammation to the ball of your foot,” says Dr. Rowling. 

You may be tempted to clock miles with a long weekend run, but 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,” says Dr. Rowling. “Your muscles, tendons and bones get stronger when you run, but you have to let them adapt gradually.”

Next steps:

Meet Elaine Rowling, DPM
Find a podiatrist
Learn about sports medicine at Geisinger

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