Monthly Archives: March 2015

5 Tips to Protect Your Feet

Your feet take the full impact of every step you walk, jog, skip or run.  Working to protect your feet from injury and ailment is one of the best ways to make sure your running season isn’t cut short.  Home to 100+ ligaments, 33 joints and 26 bones, neglecting your feet can, and for many runners eventually does, lead to some seriously not fun problems like athlete’s foot, blisters and plantar fasciitis.  Use these five tips to take care of your feet and stay healthy all season long.

Find the right shoes.  One of the best ways to protect your feet is to wear the correct shoes.  There are thousands of options available, making sure you’ll find the right one might take a little work.  Try different brands and models after you have a special fitting and make sure they’re protect your feetbig enough to let your toes spread out.  Too small shoes lead to black toenails while too narrow shoes mean blisters and too little support can cause IT band pain, plantar fasciitis and potentially stress factures.

Love those shoes.  Keep tabs on the treads and retire them before the materials are completely degraded, typically 300-500 miles.  Know that wear and tear also depends on what type of runner you are.  If you run on roads rather than trails, if you’re heavy or tall, if you stride isn’t smooth, shoes can wear out sooner.

You’ll also want to invest in more than one pair for those rainy days.  Wet shoes are not only heavy, they can lead to blisters, itching and fungus.  Dry wet shoes by removing the insoles and placing them in indirect heat out of the sunlight while you’re out running in another pair.

Wear good socks.  Your feet will sweat.  With 125,000 sweat glands, it’s inevitable.  Wearing good socks will help your feet stay dry and can help prevent fungi like athlete’s foot from developing.  Lightweight, breathable, moisture wicking socks are the best way to protect your feet from dampness and always have a clean, dry pair handy.  Dry shoes and dry socks are a good way to prevent foot and toenail fungus from ruining your next run.

Give them a rub down.  Your feet take a beating during any run and a little extra attention protect your feetafter a workout can help them stay happy and healthy.  A self-massage with your hands, a lacrosse ball, a foot roller or even a golf ball is a great way to relax and recover.  You can also try a professional massage or even step up to reflexology.

Strong feet are healthy feet.  I wrote about this here, too, but it can’t be said enough.  Your feet are an integral part of making running a miserable experience or an awesome one.  The stronger they are, the safer they’ll be.  Strengthen and protect your feet by practicing barefoot one leg balance, wearing flat shoes, or no shoes at all, as often as possible.

Use these five tips to protect your feet from fungus, blisters and muscle strains so you can stay on the road all season long.

Coach Meredith

Should You Be A Flexible Runner?

Being a flexible runner can be useful.  It can also make you less efficient.  People most commonly stretch to relieve the muscle tightness and soreness that are a product of hard training.  As this article from Competitor mentions, there’s no good reason our bodies would adapt in a way that didn’t benefit us, so do we get tight after a tough workout?  Our muscles shorten because increased flexibility can actually have a negative effect on performance.  Here’s how being a too flexible runner can change the way your body performs for the worse.

Think of your muscles as rubber bands.  There’s something to be said for tightly pulled rubber bands.  Tight bands are loaded with energy, waiting to explode.  Loose bands aren’t quite as ready to propel your body in one direction or another.  Static stretching, or loosening up, takes our tightly pulled rubber band muscles and makes them slack.  The relaxed muscles of a very flexible runner aren’t holding as much energy or as ready to perform as the tighter muscles of less flexible runner.

Stiffer muscles are also better springs.  They are better than stretched muscles at responding to impact with the ground, absorbing that energy and using it to move us forward with each step.  Being good at translating energy from the ground into forward movement is necessary for efficient running.  One study found that a group of runners who did static stretches before running had to make a bigger effort and had less efficiency at the start than those who had not, though the groups’ efforts eventually evened out.  Increasing running efficiency is the key to faster finish times and staying injury free.

While touching your toes might not be the most powerful indicator of running performance, it is still important to be a flexible runner.  Having appropriate ranges of motion around the hips and ankles will help prevent injuries, and some of the world’s best runners have been shown to have bigger ranges of motion around their hips than the rest of us.  Most of us also spend a lot more time sitting, which shortens the hamstrings, and wearing shoes, which shortens the Achilles and calf muscles.  Stretching these muscle groups to restore normal mobility should be part of your daily routine.

If a little stretch before or after your run feels good, keep it up.  Just be sure to hold for a short time and consider using a foam roller to make those muscles feel better instead.

Coach Meredith

Proprioception: Become A Better Runner

Proprioception is a big scientific word but learning to love it it can help you become a better runner.  Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines Proprioception (n) as ‘the reception of stimuli produced within the organism’.  Dictionary.com give a slightly more friendly definition: perception governed by proprioceptors, as awareness of the position of one’s body.  Proprioceptors are sensors in all of our muscles and tendons that help control balance.  That second definition makes it pretty easy to see how improving our proprioception could help our running performance.  Better balance means after steps and the more aware we are of what, how and when our body is doing something, the more efficient we can become at responding to it.

Have you ever had an ankle injury?  Exercises to improve proprioception were probably part of your rehab plan.  Why?  Exercising the proprioceptors helps strengthen ankles and feet.  You never know what you’ll come across when you’re running, especially on trails and once we’re injured, the damaged proprioceptors have trouble functioning properly.  Failing to reteach them to work correctly can ultimately lead to more injuries on the same joint and new injuries on rocky, uneven or unpredictable terrain.  Unfortunately, injuries aren’t the only thing that gets in the way of hardworking proprioceptors.  Wearing shoes all the time takes our feet away from the ground, dulls our senses and makes us visually dominant.  Waiting for our eyes to see something and tell our brain what to do is a very slow process compared to an immediate response from the correct muscles.  A better response means better balance.

To test your proprioception, stand on one foot and close your eyes.  If you immediately start to wobble and put your other foot on the ground, it’s time to go to work.  Here are exercises to proprioceptionadd to your daily routine that will build better balance, improve proprioception and help you become a better runner.

Go barefoot as often as possible.  Take a few minutes each day to work on single leg balance exercises, progressing to do them with your eyes closed.  Eventually, add a balance board or a few BOSU balls.  Both are great additions to any workout collection.  The unstable surfaces challenge your body to respond quickly to what’s happening under your feet and are good tools for strengthening feet and ankles.  Once you can stay still for a period of time, try closing your eyes.  Eventually you can add ball tossing and other upper body exercises to the challenge.

Start practicing your proprioception today to feel stronger and safer on any running surface.

Coach Meredith

Strong Feet are Stable Feet

Your feet do lots of work every time you take a step.  Strong feet provide a strong base for every landing and takeoff your leg will need when you walk, jog, run, sprint or skip.  The 33 joints, more than 100 ligaments and 26 bones in each foot help you balance, engage your core and maintain strong feetproper posture.  But strong feet aren’t everything.  They’re not much good if the ankles they’re attached to aren’t strong, too.  Increasing the strength and stability in your feet and ankles will make you a better athlete regardless of your chose sport.  Here are three ways you can start working towards strong feet and ankles today.

Take your shoes off and practice standing on one foot.  Work until you can get to at least a minute without a wobble then try it with your eyes closed.  Practice keeping your big toe flat and foot long to exercise the foot’s muscles.  This will help develop balance and the strength of the tendons and ligaments that support your ankle as well.  You might be surprised how hard this is on your first try but it can quickly improve with a little work.

Spend as much time as possible barefoot and in flat shoes.  This will not only help you earn strong feet but improve balance and running efficiency.  Wearing a thick sole between the foot and the strong feetground prevents you from feeling what’s going on beneath your step.  This ends up making us all very visually dominant for feedback on what’s happening on the ground and that is a very slow process.  By not wearing shoes to earn strong feet you can increase your foot’s ability to respond to the ground it touches, even with a shoe on, making balance better and helping protect you from potential injuries.

Strong feet need to be taken care of, too.  Rolling the muscles of your feet on a golf ball, lacrosse ball, Trigger Point set or softball can keep them soft, flexible and relaxed.  After a hard foot workout of barefoot jump roping, sand running or balance work, massage allows blood and oxygen to start helping muscles get stronger by healing.  Remember that each step you take starts at your foot and rolls up through the rest of your body.  Taking good care of your feet can help keep all of your other muscles happy, too.

Start trying to stand on one foot while you brush your teeth and the other while you brush your hair, work on not wearing shoes at home and give them a little extra care each night to have strong feet that can carry you anywhere.

Coach Meredith