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These little piggies

Posted by Chrissy Horan  August 26, 2013 07:40 AM

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Last Friday, I ran my first hill workout in a while. I ran 4 times up a hill .4 miles long, and then tacked on some additional miles, finishing up Heartbreak Hill. While this workout had plenty of obvious challenges, one I had not thought of before hand was the beating my toes would take.

These little piggies cried wee, wee, wee all the way home.

It’s hard to be a runner and have lovely feet. There is just a lot that can go wrong. Here are just a few things and some suggestions to prevent to treat them. (Please note, I am not a clinician and any suggestions given here are based on what I have read or have worked for me, but should not be viewed as medical advice.)

Bruised toenails
Bruised toenails are not uncommon among runners. The toes sliding forward in the shoe or the top of the shoe repeatedly hitting the toenail can cause repetitive trauma. For me, this kind of bruising is often uncomfortable for a day or 2, but usually not too painful. Generally, the toenail will heal as training volume or intensity decreases, however, if it is more painful, a podiatrist can help by draining fluid from under the nail to release some of the pressure.

I thought I was so clever hiding my bruised toenails by painting over them with dark nail polish. As it turns out, covering the toenail with polish keeps it from “breathing” and can actually cause the nail to fall off. That might explain the 4 toe nails lost post-Boston marathon…

To minimize black toenails, the experts suggest wearing running shoes that are the right size to avoid toes smashing into the front of the shoe. They also suggest that toenails are kept trimmed. (Also just a good idea in general. They are toenails, not claws.)

Last spring I ran the Long Island Marathon. At about the half way point, I could feel a hot spot developing on my left baby toe. As it got more painful, I could feel myself favoring that foot a bit to try to avoid making it worse. Around the 23 mile mark, all the pressure just seemed to release.

412881_3176306922944_1441235907_o.jpgApparently, I went through the full life cycle of a blister (this one a blood blister) in that race. While a loss for my white running shoes, probably a gain for me, in that I was at least able to finish the race a little more comfortably than if the blister was still pressing along the side of my shoe.

Blisters can be frustrating because, at least for me, they can occur without any rhyme or reason. I take all the preventive steps for most runs, and definitely all races. I wear well-fitted shoes and breathable running socks (I love Balega socks and coat my toes with Vaseline or body glide to keep them from rubbing. While 95% of the time things are fine, the other 5% of runs are ugly.

If they don’t pop by themselves mid-marathon, you can use a sterilized needle to puncture the blister and release the fluid. Just leave the skin covering the blister as is, and cover the spot with ointment, like Neosporin, and a bandage. Once it is not longer super raw, I also find Band Aid’s Blister bandages really help keep existing blisters from getting worse.

Athlete’s Foot
I am happy to say this is one foot issue that I have not had to deal with myself, but is relevant for a lot of runners. Athlete’s foot is a rash on the skin of the foot, caused by a fungus. The fungus is often spread as a result of walking barefoot in locker rooms or swimming pool areas.

Symptoms include burning, itching, peeling or cracking skin. It can be treated with over the counter creams or sprays, or prescription medications for stronger cases. To prevent athlete’s foot, wear sandals while walking around the pool or locker room. Keep feet dry by changing out of sweaty socks quickly and into dry shoes or sandals.

Between bruised and missing toenails and blisters...well, let's just say I won't be doing any foot modeling anytime soon. But despite this, I do try my best to keep them uninjured. After all, I have a lot riding on them.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

     Chrissy Horan has been running around Boston and nearby neighborhoods since 2000. An athlete through high school and college, she has found the running community in Boston to More »

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