DIY Foot Care

Give your hardworking feet the TLC they deserve by following these foot care tips.

Blisters, black toenails and bunions aren’t just issues runners have to deal with. Almost all activities involving your feet—such as hiking, cycling, aerobic classes and team sports—can cause overuse and friction injuries and issues. Give your hardworking feet the TLC they deserve by following these foot care tips.  

Make sure you’re wearing the right shoes
Ill-fitting shoes that are either too tight, too loose, not designed for the activity your participating in (wearing gym shoes during a trail run, for example) or not supportive enough for your feet are the main cause of injuries to your feet, both during exercise and in everyday life. Injuries can range from an annoying blister on your big toe to tendon and muscle soreness from a shoe that completely throws off your running form.

To find the right shoes for you, visit a specialty store (such as a running shoe store like The Running Room, an outdoors store like MEC, or a team sports store specializing in a single sport) with a shoe fit expert on staff. Aside from measuring the length and width of your feet, a shoe fit expert will want to assess your walking and running gait to determine whether you’re more of a supinator (your foot rolls outward) or pronator (your foot rolls inward) when you walk or run, as well as what kind of arch you have (flat or high). This will help determine the type of shoe you need (a stability shoe if you have moderate overpronation or a neutral shoe if you have slight supination and a medium-size arch, for example). If you can’t find a shoe that ensures the best fit, visit a pedorthist to see if custom orthotics are right for you.

Keep them dry
Although having dry feet can also cause issues (such as cracked skin on your heel), having wet feet seems to be a bigger issue for us sweaty and active people. Not only can moist and sweaty feet make you more prone to athlete’s foot and other fungal problems, but also blisters and chafing inside your shoe during exercise. The key to keeping your feet dry during exercise is to wear lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking socks and to stay out of puddles (or wear waterproof shoes) when hiking or running outside. If you do head out for a muddy trail run, ensure you have a towel and a spare pair of shoes and socks with you that you can change into as soon as you finish your run.
Give yourself a pedi
You don’t have to visit the spa to give your feet the TLC they deserve—regular foot care and maintenance, which can be done at home, is one of the best ways to keep blisters, bunions and black toenails at bay.
Start by soaking your feet in warm water with Epsom salts to soften the skin. After 10 minutes, dry your feet and use a foot file to file down rough patches and callouses—but not too far down. Runners in particular need to keep a bit of callous build-up to protect their feet.

Next, clip your toenails short—this is especially important if you’re a trail runner, as your feet tend to slide forward in your shoes on descents and you’re much more likely to trip on a rock or tree root out on the trails, causing you to bruise or break your toenail.   

If you have a large or bothersome blister, sterilize a needle with soap and hot water and make a small hole in the blister to drain it. Ensure both your hands and the area of the blister is clean before you do this.
Finish your at-home pedi by applying a light moisturizer to your feet and letting them dry out fully before putting your socks and shoes back on. (It’s even better if you can get your partner or spouse to do this last step for you and get a foot massage in the process!)


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Age and Mentorship in Ultrarunning

Ultrarunning is still a fairly obscure sport populated predominantly by the endurance world’s outliers. That said, ultrarunning popularity has been and continues to expand phenomenally. It has been historically pursued and dominated by Master athletes. In fact, even a few years ago, one would struggle to find a large number of athletes under the age of 30 in most ultramarathons. Even in 2013, approximately 54% of ultrarunning participants in North America were in the Master (40+ years old) class. Another 33% were 30-39 years old.

In the past few years there has been growth in younger demographics with many more athletes in their 20s and early 30s competing in ultras of all types and distances. There are even teenage runners participating in and placing quite high in competitive fields. Ford Smith, 17, of Austin, TX has been ripping it up from 26 to 100 mile events. Andrew Miller, 18, of Corvallis, OR is another who has been diligently crafting his ultra resume since he first entered his teen years. And then there are the even more surreal adolescent ultra phenoms such as Colby Wentlandt, 13 –the youngest to complete a 100 mile event at age 12, or Tajh, 10, and Teagan, 8, Redden, brother and sister who crush 50K trail runs as part of their everyday family adventuring!

A crop of the young guns are coming to ultrarunning from relatively recently completed collegiate track and cross-country careers. Others transitioned from elite (and successful) road-running into the world of mountain, ultra and trail-running. Then there are the mountain climbing and ski machines that have easily found their running legs. Not only is the expanding magnetism of ultrarunning attracting younger athletes, but this new blood infused into the sport is fast. On both the men’s and women’s fronts, these folk are winning regional, national and even international events with increasingly deeply competitive fields.

While races are won on the day, young runners, as a group, have not yet begun to break down many course records (CR) that stand on iconic and classic routes both domestically and internationally. The bars have been set, sometimes decades ago, by those veteran runners that spent much time in the sport, experimenting with and learning the myriad of nuances that culminate in exceptional ultra performances.

Naturally, the landscape of ultrarunning changes. The demographic shifts and expands and an increasing number of stakeholders result in an expanding universe. New runners bring raw speed and, possibly, great talent into the ultra gene pool. However, the nature of ultrarunning is far more expansive than physicality or some sense of imbued aptitude. Ultrarunning, while situated first and foremost in the individual, is built on community and no small part of that is the process of mentorship. Following in the footsteps of veterans and CR holders, the new generation of ultrarunners has begun to reap the benefits of mighty mentors.

Under Hal Koerner’s tutelage, the Rogue Valley Runners shop in Ashland, Oregon doubles as a training stable for a slew of very fast young ultrarunners. Kilian Jornet, possibly the greatest endurance athlete of his generation, has continually pursued legendary mentors the likes of Bruno Brunod, Stéphane Brosse and Pablo Vigil. Dominic Grossman, of Los Angeles, has drawn from his relationship with local legend Jorge Pacheco in leading to his own ultrarunning prowess in Southern California. Grossman describes: “Jorge taught me the standard of competitive ultrarunning: train hard, believe in yourself, listen to your body, and don’t give up. The details will work out if you’re consistent and keep at it. Four years later, I’m a much better runner for his guidance.”

This inclusion of mentorship and the greater supportive community in young athletes’ experience will help in leading them to greater feats than seen in the sport to date. Furthermore, this care can aid athletes in developing sustainable practices while simultaneously benefiting the sport by ensuring the passing on of the tightknit fellowship in shared suffering from which ultrarunning first emerged.