Coach Mike Mead

The Agony of "Da Feet"

I felt compelled that my column this month address an overlooked body part that runners abuse. During the last 10 years of coaching, I’ve been amazed at runners who neglect the care of their feet! I guess the mind set is that we buy $100, high-tech runner shoes, so that’s all we need to do. Wrong!

I’ve seen too many blistered feet and blackened and gnarled toes -- some with missing toenails -- from runners’ neglect. If the body is a temple, then the feet are its foundation and must be given proper care and maintenance. A little pampering now and then wouldn’t hurt either.

Some of the obvious foot care begins with daily cleaning, particularly those of you runners with foot odor problems. Some runners may stink, but don’t let your feet add to your aroma-challenged body. I’m one who cannot go around much in bare feet. Nor am I comfortable wearing shoes without socks. Some runners don’t run with socks and this creates a stinky situation during the warm months of the year. If you want to help your feet and extend the life (and smell) of that next pair of running shoes you buy, wear socks.

It is good practice to trim your toenails on a weekly basis. Nothing worse to be out for a long run and then realize that one of your toenails has cut into a neighboring toe that has bloodied your sock. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a foot massage now and then, as well as an occasional pedicure. Some stretching is helpful to prevent the dreaded – and painful – plantar fasciitis.

When buying shoes, be sure the shoe fits properly. If you’ve experienced blackened toes or blisters, perhaps you need to go up in size. I recall some years ago when my running shoes were getting tighter. I had been a size 13 for many, many years. Then one day, I couldn’t fit into them anymore. I decided to have my foot measured and lo and behold I was now a 14! Part of the problem I believe is that some of the manufactures altered their sizing without informing the consumer. In about two years time, my shoe size increased ANOTHER SIZE!

Runners also need to factor in that many racing flats and spikes run about a half-size smaller than their training shoes. Running in shoes too small is going to create serious problems for your precious feet. So be sure you get a proper fit on your next pair of shoes and actually have a shoe technician measure your feet for the proper size. Once you find a shoe that fits, buy a couple of extra pairs so that you can rotate your training shoes. Running in the same pair day in and day out is not good for your feet or shoes.

If you run pretty regular, you need to replace your shoes on a regular basis. I had a kid once who was running in the same pair of shoes for two years! That may be fine if you’re averaging five miles a week, but if you’re training above 25 miles a week, you need a new pair of training shoes about every two or three months. For you high mileage folks (over 60 miles per week), you pretty much need a new pair every month!

Besides changing out your running shoes, do the same with your “civilian shoes.” Don’t walk around in the same shoes you run in. Going bare foot now and then is good or wearing flip-flops or sandals is good, too. But be careful! Several years ago one of my runners, who was wearing sandals at the time, sliced his foot open getting out of a van. I, myself, once dropped an Exacto knife (blade side down) on my big toe and though I was wearing docker shoes, they didn’t save me from getting a tetanus shot. The point is, protect your feet!

If you expect to put your best foot forward when it comes to running, you need to take care of your feet. Otherwise, sometime in the future you will suffer the agony of da feet that will keep you from running!