To avoid getting blisters and black toenails from running, it’s important to wear the right running shoes for your leg and foot type. Here’s what to take note of.
Looking at my wife’s favourite pair of running shoes as she puts them on for our usual weekend run, I can’t help but wonder, ‘’Why do her running shoes wear out only on the inside edge of the outsoles? What can I do to avoid blisters, black toenails and other painful feet problems?” Sounds familiar?
While the right shoe size is obviously very important, how to go about selecting it isn’t always so. Start by bringing along the socks you plan to use for the run, and wear them when you try on new shoes. Socks come in different thickness and can affect your shoe size selection. Leave one thumb’s width (1 to 1.5cm) between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe, and remember that sometimes the longest may not be your big toe. Also, not every manufacturer’s shoe sizes are the same. Sometimes, a different batch of the same model from the same brand may defer in size.
The number one cause of blisters and black toenails is incorrectly sized shoes. Shoes that are too small, too big or too loose may cause blisters, as there is too much rubbing, slipping or movement. So if your shoes are laced loosely such that you can easily slip them off without untying the laces, then it’s time to forgo that convenience and make them snug fitting.
What’s your leg type?
The next thing to figure out is your leg structure. Are you blessed with normal straight legs or born with slightly knocked knees, or bow legged? Most of the time, these conditions are hardly noticeable and runners are not affected, so don’t worry. But for your peace of mind, here is a simple self-test: Stand barefoot, in front of a full-length mirror with your feet firmly placed together, weight distributed evenly across both feet. Do your knees touch (knock knees), or they are less than three finger widths apart (normal), or more than three finger widths apart (bow legged)?
Knock knees, flat feet and bunions
Knock knees, along with flat feet, can result in runners landing on the inside edge of the shoes’ outsoles (over pronation). This is when you need motion control or structured cushioning shoes. Almost every major shoe manufacturer has these models, so ask for them.
People with this condition tend to experience more pain in the front and inside of their knees. This is more common among females, due to their wider hips. Very often, bunions accompany this condition, adding to the woes of flat-footed runners.
On the other hand, you might be bow legged, and if you have high arches too, that would result in under pronation where you land on the outside edge of your shoes’ outsoles. People with this condition also tend to sprain their ankles more easily, as they put most of their body weight on the outside of their feet. Such runners are better off wearing shoes with more forefoot cushioning.
Is your foot arch high, low or normal?
Do the simple ‘wet footprint’ test – wet your feet and step on a sheet of newspaper, leaving a wet footprint. Feet with high arches tend to leave a dry spot between the front and the rear heel. Flat feet will have the opposite effect, the entire outline of the foot is outlined in wet paper. However some people with normal arches may have overly flexible feet that flatten out only when they run. To be sure, go for a dynamic foot arch test, offered by SSTAR.fitness to map how your foot arch behaves when you are actually running.
How to run strong
Besides choosing the right shoes, you have to exercise the muscles of your feet. Did you know there are 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments in our foot? All these will do well if they are properly toned. The good news is, there are some useful and fun exercises that we do during training just for that. Remember to take care of the place where the runner meets the road – your shoes and feet. Happy feet, happy runner!
(Also read: Best Apps For Runners Seeking Motivation)
About the author
Andrew Cheong is the founder and Head Coach of SSTAR.fitness, an endurance sports coaching service. Since 2010, Andrew has been dedicated to training runners of all abilities, for races ranging from 5km to the Marathon and beyond. He has a Diploma in Sports Science, is a certified Distance Running Coach by the Road Running Clubs of America, a qualified FISAF personal trainer, an IAAF Track and Field Certified and a Mental Toughness Coach. Andrew has completed more than 30 marathons and Ironman races. Most recently, he and his wife was the first Singaporean couple to be awarded the Abbott Six Star World Marathon Major recipient in 2017.
Join his weekly running sessions for free every Thursday evening at the Sports Hub. For details and sign-up, go to www.facebook.com/groups/SSTAR.fitness/. Dynamic foot arch analysis, leg structure and orthotic foot assessments are available for SSTAR.fitness athletes, in collaboration with Bauerfeind from Germany. Send enquiries to email@example.com.