Warming temperatures means more and more runners out and about on the streets, parks, and trails of the Magic Valley.
Would you like to be one of them? We hope so!
Of course, making running a regular part of your life can be hard on your feet and ankles. Even experienced runners sometimes still deal with foot pain. And it’s one of the main reasons that beginners and even intermediate runners give up and quit.
Don’t let that happen to you!
Here are six essential tips that can help you avoid injury and keep your feet as pain-free as possible when you run.
Get a Good Pair of Shoes
If you know any hardcore runners—and we’re betting you do—you probably know that they can get a little, ahem, intense when it comes to footwear. That alone is sometimes enough to discourage a newbie!
The good news is that, unless you plan on becoming an Olympic-level marathoner, you probably don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on shoes.
But you also can’t just choose any old pair of shoes carelessly, either. Generally speaking, there are three major things you should be looking for.
The first and most basic is that your running shoes have to fit properly. If your shoes are too tight, they’ll pinch your heels and toes, and you’ll hurt yourself. Bunions, blister, black toenails, and a bunch of other things that don’t necessarily start with the letter “B” can follow. Shoes too big? Same deal, unfortunately.
One good tip is to always shop near the end of the day, and always wear your regular running socks when you try on your shoes. You’ll get the best sizing information that way, since feet tend to swell a little bit by the end of the day.
The second consideration your running style. People who have flatter feet or who tend to overpronate, for example, might need more arch support or ankle stability from their shoe. By contrast, under pronators need lots of cushioning, since their feet generally don’t have as much flex and don’t absorb shocks as well.
The final consideration is simply to make sure that your shoes are in good repair. Over time, the midsole compresses and loses its ability to cushion your steps. A typical runner might need to replace their shoes every 300-500 miles or so, although that varies based on things like the terrain, how heavy you are, etc.
Know Your Pronation Style
In the last section, we mentioned that the best pair of shoes might depend on your pronation style. That leads to an obvious question—how can you tell what yours is?
The best way is to have a professional watch you run. We can do this for you, if you wish.
But you can get a quick-and-dirty estimate at home using either the wet test or the wear test:
- Wet test. Get your feet wet and stand on some construction paper. Observe your footprint. How much of your arch can you see? If it’s about half, you have a neutral arch height and likely have relatively neutral pronation. More arch means flatter feet and likely overpronation; the reverse is true for high arches and under pronation.
- The wear test. Check an old pair of shoes and see where the treads have worn the thinnest. Neutral pronation tends to wear out the outer portion of the heel and the inner portion of the ball (near the big toe) the quickest. Overpronators will see more wear concentrated on the inside of the shoe; the opposite is true for underpronators.
Choose Your Route
There’s nothing wrong, necessarily, with simply heading out and seeing where the road takes you. But if you have a history of foot pain, it might be smarter and safer to start with a good idea of where you’re going!
Obviously, this means if you’re going to be running on a rated hiking or nature trail, you’ll want to know ahead of time that the length, slope, and difficulty level is something you can reasonably handle.
If you find that your feet are often sore by the time you return, but you’re not exactly keen on reducing your pace or distance, see if new terrain will help. Running on a flat trail, for example, is less wear and tear per step than concrete, especially with a lot of hills.
Pick Out Your Tunes
Now, not everyone likes to listen to music when they run. And it’s important that you remain aware of your surroundings, too. You wouldn’t want the thumping bass to drown out the sound of a fast-approaching car or cyclist—or, say, grizzly bear.
Those caveats aside, though, most of us like to have a soundtrack when we run. And science suggests that a little music actually helps with both endurance and performance!
Previous studies have shown that faster and louder music generally correlates with increased motivation and a faster running pace. A great track at the right time can lift your spirits, alleviate any boredom about to set it, and even help you forget about any mild discomfort you might be experiencing.
Why does this work? It’s actually kind of cool. See, we now understand that fatigue is really as much mental as physical. Essentially, your brain triggers sensations of fatigue before you hit your physiological wall, not after. When you’re really mentally stimulated and motivated, you don’t fatigue as quickly, so you can go further and faster.
So what music is best? That’s really a matter of taste. That said, faster tempos are great for warm up and the middle of your run; you can save the ballads for cool down.
Start Slow and Build Slowly
Everybody runs at their own pace, and that’s okay—you don’t have to be the world’s fastest. That said most people do have both short-term and long-term goals to get faster, or be able to run longer, than they used to. That’s great too!
The problem is when people try to go from A to B too quickly. We get it, you really want to reach those results. But if you try to do too much too soon, you’re more likely to burn out, hurt yourself, and quit long before you reach your personal goals.
Listen to your body, especially if you haven’t done much running in the recent past and are a bit out of shape. Start with just plain walking, or five minutes of walking followed by a minute of jogging if you have to. Wherever you start, it shouldn’t be painful.
The next week, make small increases—no more than a ten to fifteen percent ramp up in difficulty—whether that’s slightly more distance, slightly faster pace, or just a little less walking and a little more jogging. Set small, realistic goals for yourself that you can reasonably achieve in a short timeframe, and once you hit one, set another slightly further out.
The small goals keep you focused and motivated, and over time, you’ll get better, faster, stronger—hopefully without burning or wearing you out.
Seriously, Listen to Your Body
We already touched on this in the last section, but we wanted to drive the point home.
Running should never be painful. Difficult, maybe. Tiring, certainly. But pain is different. It means something is wrong and needs fixing. It means you need to back off.
The single most reliable way to badly hurt yourself as a runner is to keep running even when something hurts.
So if you are dealing with any pain that’s keeping you from running as freely as you’d like—and even making your day-to-day activities more difficult—please call Canyon Foot + Ankle. We’ve worked hard to bring a lot of advanced therapies and research to the Twin Falls area for our runners and athletes, including MLS laser therapy, custom orthotics, and more.