Your feet need to be in tip-top shape if you expect to run 138,336 feet to actually finish a marathon.
Being that your feet are the connection to the ground, they have to primed and steps should be taken to avoid injury that can slow you down or knock you out of the race. So whether you are training to win or simply running to run, it is important to know what foot problems can occur, and hopefully treat them before they become a marathon-breaker.
Specific Marathon Foot Issues: No matter how experienced a runner, the foot is always susceptible to running injuries, and this risk amplified during marathon training. On marathon day, however, there is specific injury risk because runners tend to me more committed to "running though" a problem (new or old).
A method to remember marathon-related foot problems is the mnemonic "ABCD":
Abrasions & Blisters
Cramping & Tendon Problems
Disorders of the Toenail
Provided below are explanations of marathon-related foot injuries as well as preventative measures. Should you, the reader (or runner), have any additional preventive solutions or tips for any of the running ABCD's, please share them.
Abrasions & Blisters: Pressure points and repetitive irritation set the stage for abrasions and blisters. Common runner pressure spots are on the top of the toes, big toe joint area and the back part of the heel. Runners with bunions and hammer toes are more likely to have skin irritation. An abrasion is a simple break in the skin, whereas a blister is lifting of the skin with a fluid collection beneath it.
Bone Breaks: Fractures (aka bone breaks) are the most serious problem that a runner could develop. They typically start as a microscopic fracture (stress fracture) and can progress onto a through and through break. Most common are metatarsal stress fractures involving the second toe region. Heel strike runners may be more susceptible to stress fractures of the heel bone.
An acute stress fracture is often present with varying degrees of pain, swelling, and sometimes redness, though stress fractures may occur without you even knowing it. Running with a stress fracture is not medically advised, and most health care professionals would recommend calling off the race. Runners who don't heed such advice may fully fracture through the bone which could lead to bone displacement (malalignment) -- a potentially serious problem. Some people may have brittle bones making them more likely to develop a bone injury. Certain foot types seem to be more prone to stress fractures -- very flat feet or very high arched feet.
Cramping & Tendonitis: Biomechanical and structural problems within the foot tend to manifest as shin splints, arch cramping, plantar fasciitis and/or tendinitis. Less experienced runners tend to develop these problems and is commonly the result of training past the capabilities of your foot. Tight musculature may also be at the root of cramping and shin splints. These problems tend to be self-limited and resolve with targeted treatment programs, but can set you back in terms of being marathon ready.
Disorders of the Toenail: A black toenail is a problem that every marathon runner has experienced, and is the result of bleeding beneath the nail plate. Pressure and friction from repetitive running seem to be the culprit. The damaged nail can be painful and often results in the toenail falling off. Fortunately, a black toenail doesn't typically interfere with training and common is self-limiting.
By the time marathon day rolls around, and if you have avoided or overcome injury during your training and your feet are pain free, then you likely have feet that are ready to start a marathon.
~ Dr. Neal M. Blitz
To learn more about Dr. Blitz, please visit www.nealblitz.com