The experts explain how to take care of your feet before, during, and after a race. (Photo: Getty Images)
Anyone who has watched a marathon knows that runners have amazing legs, carefully sculpted by months of training. But as any long-distance runner (or, to be frank, anyone who has walked around with a blister) can tell you, taking care of your feet is just as important as taking care of your quads. Trying to run with a blister or a toenail that is falling off can ruin your race time. With the world’s largest marathon, the TCS New York City Marathon, happening on Yahoo Beauty’s front steps this Sunday, we’ve consulted the foot care experts — a podologist (a medical pedicure expert) a physical therapist, a personal trainer, a podiatrist, and a nail salon owner. They provided tips on what runners should do before, during, and after running 26.2 miles if they want to keep their feet in beautiful shape.
Before the Marathon
Get proper footwear
“That doesn’t mean expensive footwear,” Portland-based physical therapist Alice Holland, who has run two marathons and regularly works with runners, tells Yahoo Beauty. “Draw an outline of your foot, and make sure that outline can fit into the shoe fit that you’re buying.” Like wearing pointy-toed stilettos, wearing too-tight running shoes can cause an unattractive deformity called “hallux rigidus,” in which the big toe starts pointing inwards. “The shoes have to be snug, not tight, in the heel because people tend to slide in the shoes while they’re running,” Holland adds.
Get the right socks
Santa Monica-based podiatrist Robert Khorramian, DPM, tells Yahoo Beauty that your sock choice matters. “Cotton socks actually cause friction and blisters.” Consequently, runners need to wear acrylic socks, like Nike Elite Lightweight No-Show Tab Running Socks ($16). “Socks need to be snug and comfortable. Not too tight to cut circulation,” Khorramian adds.
Ice your feet after each training session
According to Los Angeles-based Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and New Balance Ambassador Holly Perkins, giving your feet an ice foot bath after your daily runs is better because, at extremely cold temperatures, it will both decrease swelling through dilation and soothe your sore joints. But, warns Perkins, you have to do the ice bath exactly in accordance to the following steps — it’s not as simple as dumping a tray of ice cubes on your toes! “First, put your feet in a rectangular container, like a dishwashing tub for your sink, and fill it with cold water until the water reaches your ankles,” she advises Yahoo Beauty. “Then, dump in two trays of ice cubes. If you can white-knuckle through until your feet are numb, which is about eight minutes, you will experience miracles.” Perkins claims that you will feel like you have a completely new pair of feet after the soaking. “If your feet swell, they’ll rub against your shoes and you’ll get blisters,” she adds. You can do this once a day.
Callouses are your friend
“Don’t mess with the callouses!” Holland warns. Callouses are your body’s way of preventing blisters, and while you are allowed to get pedicures before the marathon, you should stay away from the infamous callous remover gadgets. Not only should you be keeping your callouses on for extra protection against the friction of your shoe, but also the callous remover gadget is notorious for causing unnecessary and painful burns. “People can’t tell the difference between dry skin and callouses,” Manhattan-based medical nail technician and podologist Marcela Correa tells Yahoo Beauty. “90 percent of the time, what you think is a callous is actually just dehydrated skin.” Runners and beauty editors alike flock to Correa, whose father was a podiatrist in Uruguay, for her specialty: the 60-minute medical pedicure. The $120 session doesn’t come cheap, but Correa essentially rehabilitates your foot to brand new, from deep cleaning your toenails with a German-made drill (looks a lot like a larger dentist’s drill) to carefully filing off the dry skin with a disposable foot filer.
How you cut your toenails matters
For runners, Correa highly recommends paying attention to how you cut your toenails. “Only cut until the cuticle line,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “If you cut any further, you’ll get painful ingrown toenails.” The shape should be square with rounded corners (you can file the angles). “If your toes are round, they risk hitting the ends of your shoes with greater impact,” Correa says. “That’s how runners lose their toenails.” Remember tough feet are a good thing, and a normal part of running long distances. Your perfect pedicure will have to wait. “Having rough skin is a good thing for running. It’s your body’s natural way of protecting itself from friction,” Khorramian says.
During the Marathon
Don’t try anything new
Especially with all the photographers and cheering spectators out there, it may be tempting to buy a brand new outfit for the marathon — but don’t take the risk. “Don’t ever do something new or different on race day,” Perkins warns. “Wear shoes that are broken in and the same socks that you’ve been training in.” You should be running the race in the same conditions as you did while you were training. “Hopefully, you weren’t getting blisters or losing toenails before,” Perkins says. “As long as you don’t do anything different, you shouldn’t have any new injuries.”
Stop at the medical tents when needed
“I get it — of course you want to push through the pain. I’m a big fan of getting through it,” Holland says, having run a few marathons herself. “But if you’re seriously in pain during the race, go see the medical tents along the route.” At these tents along the race path, there are medical specialists, like podiatrists and nurses, who can do everything from bandaging painful blisters to giving you Mylar blankets to prevent hypothermia.
After the Marathon
Wait one week before getting a pedicure
“Your feet are still sore and traumatized for a week,” Correa tells Yahoo Beauty. To help your feet heal, Nadine Ferber, co-owner of New York City-based nail salonTenoverten, recommends soaking feet in Epsom salts, or Pursoma Ocean Potion Bath soak ($12). Look for a bath salt mixture, like Osmia Organics Recovery Salt Bath ($29), that comes with Epsom salts to help with the aching and swelling. “They’re immediately relaxing and hydrating for your nails,” she says. “This is also a good time to look at your feet and observe battle-worn they may be.” Ferber also recommends taking a break from nail polish every few weeks — you can still get the pedicure, but avoid any coat application. “If you don’t take off your nail polish once in a while, your nails will get really dry and flaky,” she explains. “After two to three weeks of wearing polish, take it all off with a non-acetone safe remover, even in the winter months when you don’t care about chipped polish under your boots.”
Rehydrate and exfoliate your feet — gently
This is especially important during the harsh winter months — your foot is more than a collection of pretty toenails, after all! Both Correa and Ferber recommend using any type of moisturizing lotion on your feet on a daily basis. Ferber lovesWeleda Skin Food ($19), which contains soothing chamomile extract. While you moisturize your feet, you can lightly exfoliating your soles with a foot file (preferably with disposable abrasive pads to prevent spreading of bacteria) or with a scrub likeFig & Yarrow Alpine Pumice Foot Treatment ($28). “Just don’t use a pumice stone,” Correa says. “The bacteria will stay in the holes and can spread infections.
Give your feet a mask
For those who love a good sheet mask, consider the foot mask, which originated in Asia and look a bit like hospital scrubs. Both the Karuna Exfoliating+ Foot Mask($38) and PediSpa Intensive Moisturizing Foot Mask ($10) contain serums that deep condition your feet. You can even wear them overnight under a pair of socks. However, be wary of the infamous Baby Foot peel ($25), which is an enzyme peel that causes your feet’s dead skin to peel for an entire week, leaving only fresh soft skin. “You can’t use them if you have a skin condition, like eczema, on your feet,” Correa says. “It shouldn’t burn. I know it’s satisfying to peel, though — but you should ask your dermatologist first.” Khorramian says it’s okay to use these at-home treatments, as long as you wait until the race is over.