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Marathon Sports tip of the week: Tell-tale toes

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff  February 12, 2014 01:42 PM

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There is a progression in marathon training. When I ask groups of runners how training is going in December, the answers are always “Awesome!” and “Fantastic!”

When I ask them in January, the answers are “Pretty Good!” and “All right!”

When I ask in February, the answers shift to “Mmm…OK” and “Well…things are starting to hurt…”

February is a tough month for training. The long runs are getting longer, the weather is often at its most extreme, fundraising goals loom if you’re running for a charity, and that's not to mention handling your 9 to 5 responsibilities.

The longer the runs, the more stress you are putting on your body. You probably have aches and pains, stiffness and soreness. This is completely understandable and to be expected. You need to pay attention to your body.

Today, we’ll explore the Tell-Tale Toes. One important thing to bear in mind – there is a threshold where your feet will swell – typically it is around the 6-mile mark. That swelling is often a contributing cause of issues:

Black Toenails: No, it’s not a disease. No, it’s not a fungus. Black toenails occur because of bruising to the nail beds. They aren’t fun because they usually end up falling off, which is gross. There are usually two different causes for this:

-- Your shoes aren’t long enough: If your shoes aren’t long enough, your toes will “hit” the end of the shoe with every stride. Especially after the swelling threshold, this constant contact with the end of the shoe will cause the toenail bed to bruise – hence the “Black Toenails”.

-- Your shoes aren’t deep enough: Same principle – if you don’t have enough depth in the forefoot, every stride you take will cause the toes to “hit” the top of the shoe. Same effect.

Callouses on the top/ends of toes: Same issue as the black toenails – your shoes are either too short, or too shallow.

Blisters: Rule number one for blisters is "cotton is rotten.” If you’re wearing cotton socks for your runs, ditch them. As we discussed in last week’s tip, cotton is a porous fiber that will absorb moisture and hold it next to the skin, increasing the opportunity for friction and chafing - the number one cause of blisters.

If you’re not wearing cotton socks, your blisters are likely a result of a shoe that it too tight. This can sometimes be resolved by adjusting the way you lace your shoes (visit your local Marathon Sports for pointers), or applying some anti-chafing balm (Body Glide is our ‘go to’), but will sometimes require shoes that fit better.

Your feet deserve respect. On a 15-mile run, they are taking 15,000 to 20,000-plus steps. That’s an amazing feat. Ha ha – pun intended. Pay attention to what they are telling you.

Last point – Don't get a pedicure between now and the Marathon. Your feet are building up natural resistances and strengths, such as callouses in targeted areas. They may not be the prettiest they’ve ever been, but don’t mess with them. As the runs get longer, it’s important that you let them maintain the natural protection they are building up.

Dan Soleau is Brand Development Manager at Marathon Sports. He’ll provide weekly training tips for those preparing for the Boston Marathon. Dan has completed 6 marathons and an Ironman. He is a mentor for the One Fund’s Boston Marathon team, coach for the Spaulding Rehabilitation Boston Marathon team, and will be running the 2014 Boston Marathon. Follow him on Twitter at @dansoleau or follow Marathon Sports at @marathon_sports

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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