Fix Your Feet
Take care of your feet, or you will be out of commission. Just like when I served in the military years ago, the same rules apply to the life of a Spartan racer. There are two specific items you should consider when it comes to taming your cave feet for current or future racing: footwear and grooming.
Your feet will take you places for sure, but if they are not taken care of properly, you will be grounded and quite possibly out of racing for some time. Being proactive in taking care of your feet is vital to keeping yourself able to race.
It all starts with footwear. One of the most basic considerations is your socks. Do they have a cushioning sole? Are they compression socks? When racing, we take in water, so do your socks hold on to that water? Do you change them? It’s best to keep your feet as dry as possible for as long as possible. If you are running a Spartan Sprint, you can get away with compression socks, sneakers that drain, and a change of socks after the race. If you are running an Ultra, you may want to keep a fresh pair of socks to change into at the transition point. You should also consider what sneakers you wear to keep your feet healthy. As just mentioned, if you are doing water obstacles, sneakers that drain water are helpful. Sneakers also need to be looked at for wear and tear. Consider the mileage statistics that tell you when to get new shoes. Running in worn-out shoes can hurt your feet. You should also consider the fit of the shoe. Simply put, does the sneaker fit well? If you have low or high arches, is your foot supported? Unsupported arches can lead to injury, most commonly plantar fasciitis and heel problems. Lastly, break in new shoes before the race to give your feet time to adjust, especially if you are wearing footwear you have never worn before.
The importance of grooming cannot be overstated, especially for new runners who have yet to lose their first toenail. It sounds unpleasant, and it is. The more you beat up your feet, the more you need to remediate the damage with some good old foot care. This includes using lotion, trimming your nails, using a pumice stone to remove callus, and extreme cleaning after training and running. Keeping your feet dry will help prevent blisters, but if you do get a blister, take care of it immediately. When it comes to nail trimming, be careful: if you trim too short, you can get ingrown toenails. These are extremely painful and hard to fix without medical help. If you leave your toenails too long, they can break and cause other problems when your feet are crammed into the toe box of an shoe running a mile downhill. This is why it is critical to train in what you will race in so you can get used to the gear and build your feet up to the task.
Although this article is tailored for racing, the importance of taking care of your feet also holds for training sessions. Consider using post-training treatments like massage, ice, heat, rollers, and myofascial release. And don’t overtrain. Listen to your feet! If you are running marathon and ultra distances, you really need to heed this warning. Take care of your feet so they can carry you across the finish line.
I once had plantar fasciitis because I bought new shoes with the wrong arch height. After putting about 50–60 miles in, my feet gave out and I was sidelined for six weeks trying to correct my mistake. It happens, but you can and will recover. Taking care of your feet (and listening to your body) will make the difference. Lastly, consider how your feet affect the rest of your body. If you start to have problems with your feet, your body compensates and you may start to have a ripple effect through your entire body (knees, hips, back, and so on). Make sure your training and racing plans take foot care seriously, and you will be in good shape to race for years to come. Just like in the military: if you ignore your feet, you will be sorry.
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