Sensitive soles? Tough skin on your tootsies? Pounding the pavement can wreak havoc on your feet and make training a painful experience. Here’s our guide to beating the most common runner’s ailments and revitalising your feet.
The problem: black toenails
This is the result of ill-fitting footwear (too tight or too small), which causes your toes to rub against the front of your trainers. If your nails are repeatedly pushed against the nail bed, bruising appears under the nail. Your toenails, especially your big toenail, may grow back yellow and thick afterwards, due to increased keratin production.
The solution: Tackle tough toenails after a bath or shower when they’re soft. ‘Cut nails straight across, leaving the sides of the nail still visible above the skin to prevent in-growing toenails,’ says podiatrist Michael Harrison-Blount. Soak your feet in a bowl of warm water with half a cup of Epsom salts to relieve pain, soften skin and kill bacteria. Rub a vitamin E-enriched cuticle oil into the nails to nourish the nail bed. If the pain from black toenails is severe, and you have the courage, it might be necessary to puncture the nail with a sterilised needle to release the pressure. Apply antiseptic cream afterwards to avoid infection.
The problem: calloused skin
‘Hard skin and callouses are often caused by excessive stress or friction on your foot, so they tend to form on the heel, side and ball of the foot,’ says Harrison-Blount. Hard skin can make your feet less flexible, and it can be uncomfortable when you’re running.
The solution: ‘Moisturise and exfoliate your feet on a daily basis to prevent hard skin and callouses forming,’ says Harrison-Blount. A little toughened skin will actually protect your feet against blisters. If you go for a pedicure, don’t let the therapist remove this, ask them to exfoliate your feet instead. ‘Hard skin can be gradually removed with a foot file, and applying an intensive moisturiser will keep skin soft,’ says Harrison-Blount. Visit a chiropodist if the hard skin on your feet is cracked or painful.
The problem: blisters
‘Blisters are the result of friction which causes the upper layers of skin to rupture, forming a pocket that fills with liquid,’ says Harrison-Blount. Blisters can be very painful and can stop you training. When your feet are sweaty and damp inside ill-fitting shoes, this is the perfect environment for a blister to form.
The solution: ‘Do not break the skin of a blister,’ warns Harrison-Blount. ‘Blister plasters will help them heal, while forming a second skin that repels water, dirt and bacteria. Treat an open blister by cleaning with soap and water; cover it with an antiseptic ointment before using a protective soft-gel dressing.’ To prevent blisters occurring, avoid cotton socks as they retain moisture. Synthetic, double-layer sports socks are the best. A good runner’s tip is to smother your feet in Vaseline before putting your socks on to reduce friction.