Updated: July 24th, 2013

The marathon distance will test every aspect of your athletic prowess and overall character. It is also a very strenuous test for your feet and the footwear you choose to wear in your big race.

This article will look at some common foot-related issues marathoners often face, and what you can do to avoid them on race day.

Blisters

Blisters are generally caused by some combination of sock selection, shoe choice, weather, and personal sweat rate. They can be the bane of a runner’s existence because there is little to do for them and they HURT worse than some minor injuries.

For the marathon, it is strongly recommended that you use a moderate amount of commercial lubricant like Vaseline or Body Glide to rub on your feet (between your toes, around the heel, along the edges) before racing a long event like the marathon.

Wear thin RUNNING socks that allow your toes to bend and move freely, and lace your shoes securely (snug, but not too tight) to further help avoid blisters.

If you do incur a blister in training (or during a race), apply a petroleum based antiseptic and bandage it prior to running. Note your shoes, socks, and weather conditions that may have led to the blister. Using a product like Second Skin works well, and even a lidocaine spray can abate some of the pain involved. If a blister persists for more than a day or two, you need to rest or XT instead of running. Running with a bad blister can force you to alter your gait and lead to a cascade effect of other (worse) injuries.

Overly Minimal Shoes

Unless you are among the group of very rare runners in the world who can run long distances on pavement barefoot (or nearly barefoot) without injury, then you need to find a good pair of running shoes designed to go 26.2mls at your goal speed. Just because certain shoes are popular, look funky, or promote “good form” doesn’t make them marathon worthy.

You can incur serious injury if you attempt to race a marathon in shoes that are too minimal, even if you consider yourself an efficient, strong runner.

I have seen many runners come limping towards the finish line in shoes that are not suitable for them at marathon races and could barely walk for days after the race. Don’t let this be you. Make an intelligent decision as to what shoes your body can feasibly handle and perform well in at your next marathon.

Sore Feet

All that pavement pounding while in marathon training can sometimes wreak havoc on your feet. While some soreness is normal, if you have persistent uncomfortably sore feet, then you may need to take measures to aid your feet along their way to 26.2mls.

If you suspect your shoes are to blame (too firm, not supportive enough for your feet, etc), but you still like them overall, consider buying an over-the-counter insert with a gel component to cushion your feet. If your arches are especially sore, perhaps try a more rigid insert that would serve as a mild orthotic (Spenco and Super Feet make some great options).

If your soreness is less general and more acute, then roll the bottoms of your bare feet with a tennis ball prior to running and again when you have finished. This will help keep all the muscles and connective tissue loose as you run, and then relax the feet upon completion of your workout. Also, spread your toes apart with your fingers, pop them if needed, stretch your feet in different directions, and roll your ankles in small circles pre/post run, as well.

If soreness persists or worsens, freeze a 16-20oz plastic water bottle and give yourself a good ice massage for your feet. You can alternate this treatment with warm Epsom salt soaks for a mix of cold and hot therapy. These protocols can work well to prevent nasty injuries like plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, neuromas, and even stress fractures in your feet.

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