Probably the biggest casualties during marathon training are your feet that have to take a major pounding after running for miles and miles.
Most runners know the importance of stretching and strength training when preparing for a big race, but they tend to neglect their feet in the process. But as you stow them in your tight sneakers and pound them on the pavement over and over again, there will come a time when they start making some noise.
If you look at the mechanics of running, you can see what your feet really go through when stomp away for miles without a break. One of the biggest distinctions between running and walking is that the former is a one-legged sport which involves shifting your weight to one leg for a considerable amount of time during each stride.
When you run, you leap with a single leg at a time and shift all your weight to one foot which can turn your feet into rigid levers instead of the soft landing pads that they are designed to be.
When you run, your feet are the only contact point between you and the pavement which is why it is important to ensure that this contact feels strong for your feet and for you, otherwise your performance could suffer and you could end up with a painful injury that could put you out of the competition. Here are a few practices you need to incorporate in your daily routine to show your feet some much-deserved TLC.
In order to achieve balance and help your feet propel forward while running you need to make sure that the muscle called flexor hallucis longus, which stretched from your lower leg all the way to the big toe, is properly warmed up and stretched before you start. A weakness or strain in the muscle can cause tightness in your foot which can cause discomfort while running.
A toe-against-the-wall stretch can really help with discomfort. To perform this move, plant your heel on the floor while lining the big toe against the wall. Now bend your knee slightly to feel a stretch in your toe and hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds.
Strength training is necessary for marathon runners and there is no reason why your feet should be an exception. There are certain toe-strengthening exercises that can give your feet a more sturdy foundation to balance the weight and improve its propulsion capabilities.
Towel scrunches: sit in a chair with your heel firmly planted in the ground. Now hold a towel between both hands and put it under one forefoot. Use your toes to pull the towel towards you until you feel a nice stretch in your foot. This exercise helps with dexterity and mobility by strengthening over 100 muscles and tendons in the foot.
If you feel any pain in the heel or arch of the foot, a massage with an icepack can really do the trick in reducing the pain or inflammation. Use the icing technique by rolling your foot over a frozen bottle of water to stretch and soothe plantar fascia. You can also apply the ice directly to the affected area for two minutes and allow your foot to rest to ease the discomfort.
Use a Lacrosse Ball
Most of us don’t have the time or the money to get a professional foot massage, in which case, a lacrosse ball can really come in handy.
Use the ball under the arch of your foot to stretch and soften the tissues which can reduce some of the soreness and inflammation due to constant straining of the fascia. Some runners love this DIY massage so much that they carry a ball with them at all times – once you try it for yourself, you will love it too!
Put Your Legs Up on a Wall
After a long, tiring run, your legs can get swollen up as blood and fluids pool up in your feet, leading to discomfort. You can easily remedy this by lying down on your back and throwing your legs against the wall to allow the blood to return to your heart. This is also a great stretching position to strengthen your lower back and hamstrings.