How to avoid getting blisters and losing toenails
by Coach Lora “Blonde Runner, USATF certified running coach with www.BlondeRunner.com
Runners – we have all been there. We have experienced the blackened toenails and raw burning feeling of a blister forming on the bottom of our feet as we pound down on the asphalt in a race. We are all afraid of what we might find when we peel off our shoes. While blisters can be very painful, there are things we can do to prevent them. To avoid them we first must understand what causes them. The culprit – friction. There are many causes of friction but in my experience the most common is poor shoe fit. I remember once being excited to run in a new pair of trail shoes I bought. The shoes looked nice and felt pretty comfortable however the toe box seemed a little wide. I didn’t think this would be a problem since I have run in less-than-perfectly fitting shoes before. Big mistake. I could soon feel the hot friction under my skin and knew a blister was developing. I simply had too much room in my toe box and my foot was sliding around and moving too much. Finding the right shoe fit doesn’t have to be difficult. To be sure the shoe fits right always try it on at the store and utilize the in-store treadmill that is available. If something doesn’t feel right – don’t get them. Also, remember that when you are trying on shoes your feet may swell when you are exercising. I find it best to shop for shoes after a short run when my feet are slightly swollen like they would be on a run. Temperatures can also affect shoe fit. In the winter my feet don’t swell as much so I don’t need to size up my shoes that much. Sock thickness can also help to adjust for proper fit when temperatures vary. There are moisture wicking socks or double layer socks that can also give you friction relief if you are prone to blisters.
When it comes to losing toenails, generally this is from shoes that are too small and the end of your toes get wedged up against the end of the shoe. Excessive down hill running can also force the toes into the end of the shoe. If the course calls for this it may be unavoidable, however if you don’t mind stopping and walking to ease the pressure off your toes in the race, you might keep those pressure-sensitive toenails a little longer.
Another way to help avoid building up pressure in the toes or excessive movement is to land gently. Often while performing a Running Form Analysis I see runners just drop their feet. These are the runners you can usually “hear” behind you loudly hitting the ground with each step. Generally this is difficult on a runner’s body and doesn’t allow for proper elastic load for better propulsion and faster running and is considered poor form. To learn more about proper running form click here.
Another thing that can help is to practice downhill running. This allows the body to adapt to the stresses of downhill running over time and develop calluses’. Some runners use moleskin to pretent tender areas from friction as well. Different anti-chaffing powder or glide-on products might also prove helpful. I would suggest trying these things in training and see what works best before attempting to try something new in a race environment. Unfortunately, however after all our efforts we still lose toenails and get blisters. Be sure and take care of them so they don’t get infected. Happy running.
Coach Lora Erickson aka “Blonde Runner” is a competitive runner and triathlete with over 26 years of experience. She is a USATF certified running coach and specializes in weight loss, corrective exercise, nutrition education, and endurance performance (triathlon and running). She is the founder and organizer of several clubs and teams including Team Blonde Runner (TBR) – triathlon and running teams. She relishes the opportunity to work with beginners. To learn more about her teams, classes and programs visit www.BlondeRunner.com