When it comes to physical exercise, there is always a certain level of risk involved. After all, pushing the body outside of its comfort zone will raise one’s heart rate, put stress on one’s joints, force the muscles to work harder, and much more. It’s not uncommon to see injuries related to excessive workouts without proper training or the supervision of an expert.
A great example of the aforementioned would be marathon runners who push their bodies as far as humanly possible. Just consider, for instance, the fact that the reason why this historical race is 26 miles long originates from 490 years B.C.
Ever since then, humans have continued the tradition and marathons have become an essential race of most runners’ careers. The risk of injury has not decreased over the centuries. What has changed, however, is the technology and knowledge that helps runners train more properly and medical experts treat and prevent injuries much more effectively.
So, how exactly can runners prepare their feet to minimize the risk of getting hurt during the milestone event?
Understand the Level of Exercise
Before brainstorming the ways to prepare the feet for long distance running, one has to understand what exactly they are planning to do. With marathons, this translates to 26 miles and 385 yards of non-stop running. An even better frame of reference is the average completion time is approximately four hours. The top finishers, however, tend to take only half of that and run a little over two hours.
Based on that information, the person who intends to run must recognize that they will have to spend around four hours, on average, pounding their feet with non-stop running. Furthermore, any race-specific inputs should be added to the analysis. For example, the Boston Marathon is one of the world’s most elite races that have no pacesetters and comes with a net downhill course. Knowing this can help one prepare better as they will know what type of setting to expect.
Stretch Before and After
According to Gotham Footcare, which is an advanced medical foot care center, the most important part of running normally starts before the run itself. In other words, getting warmed up and stretching the muscles will exponentially reduce the risk of injury. Moreover, doing so will minimize the risk of muscle cramps that could take place as the running time goes up and energy sources are drained. One of the greatest sources of foot and ankle injuries results from a tight Achilles tendon. When the Achilles is tight the foot does not engage in its normal range of motion when dorsiflexing. This places great stress not only on the Achilles tendon but also on the posterior tibial tendon which when tight leads to shin splints. The Achilles tendon also attaches to the plantar fascia the bowstring ligament on the bottom of our feet. When the Achilles tendon is tight, the ankle becomes less flexible, and the plantar fascia also tightens. Tightness of the Achilles tendon can also affect not only the foot and ankle, but also the hips, knees, and back.
Some of the most popular foot stretches include step and knee-to-wall methods. The first one is quite simple as it requires nothing more than something to stand on and do calf raises. Although the primary muscle that is engaged there will be the calf, feet will have to do a lot of work related to balancing. That way, they will actually be getting warmed up as well.
The knee-to-wall stretch is also aimed at the calve muscles which are the origin of the Achilles tendon. The person does it by placing their toes on a wall at a 45-degree angle from the floor. Then, they push forward until they feel the calf muscle stretching effectively. The position of the foot, however, will cause the foot to get some exercise as well.
Pick the Right Shoes
The next rule of safe running revolves around proper footwear. Sadly, the number of people that are unaware of how important shoes are counted in millions. Well, knowing the shape of one’s foot will help that person pick the right insoles that can turn average shoes into high-quality gear. In order to know this though, one will often have to get their feet inspected by a professional who can look at the shape and diagnose potential risks. It’s important to purchase your shoes at the end of the day when your feet are most swollen. If your shoes feel comfortable then they most likely will feel comfortable throughout the day. It’s important to have your feet measured with the Branick device and to measure them yearly as your feet can become wider over time as your foot loses collagen which lead Ligamentous laxity and wider feet. This occurs particularly among women after pregnancy because of hormonal changes and weight gain.
Don’t Neglect the Toenails
While they may seem like a small part of the overall picture, properly caring for one’s toenails can go a long way towards helping keep a runner’s feet in competition shape. Proper care of toenails for a runner includes keeping the nails properly pedicured and cut in a square shape rather than the potentially damaging rounded edges. It’s recommended to keep the nails trimmed short before Marathon to avoid the repetitive stress that occurs with every step pushing the nail back into the toe. I recommended keeping the nails trimmed short before marathon to avoid discoloration and damage to the nail and nail matrix, the root of the nail which can sometimes result in permanent disfiguration of the nail as the toenail undergoes significant cumulative stress with each step a runner takes. This can lead to a condition called runners nails which refers to discoloration and damage of the nail when a blood vessel in the nail bed underneath the nail plate ruptures and forms a bruise referred to as a subungual hematoma.
In the extreme case of a toenail that becomes damaged or infected, consult a foot specialist immediately. Many runners succumb to the temptation to treat a damaged toenail at home so they can immediately return to training. This approach is extremely dangerous, and only a trained doctor will be able to properly treat issues with the nail before they become more severe. This will help eliminate downtime and discomfort as quickly and safely as possible.
Preventively Visit Your Podiatrist
Although there may be no signs of any foot injury, the marathon is a race that is long enough to turn even the smallest of symptoms into problems. Therefore any discomfort, pain, or concerns should be addressed with a qualified medical expert. As Gotham Footcare states, those who are trained to deal with foot conditions are known as podiatrists. As with other medical practices, they spend no less than a decade getting trained. So, they will be more than able to diagnose foot-related issues.
In order to take full advantage of these professionals, one should visit them on a regular basis. Doing so will help prevent any injuries that someone could be physically inclined to. Also, those people who have never run a marathon before will generally be unaware of the level of strength that it requires. Due to this, they often become victims of foot and leg injuries. Going to a podiatrist before getting into any training, however, could bring this risk down to marginal levels.