Podiatrist Answers Top 3 Melbourne Marathon Questions
Every year I get a tonne of questions from runners training for the Melbourne Marathon. So I thought I'd put together the answers, to a few of the most common questions I get!
This year's Melbourne Marathon will be held on Sunday 13th October 2013.
If you have any other foot or podiatry related questions, please feel free to add your comments below. Thanks!
1. I've been using the same shoes for all of my training and they feel great.
How do I know if I should buy new shoes or not leading up to the Marathon?
Running shoes have a limited life span. They can often wear out quicker than you would think when you are training for a big event such as a Marathon or ½ Marathon. Most standard running shoes have a life span of between 600 -1,000km's. This depends on a number of factors including your body weight, the surfaces you run on, how many times a week you are wearing the shoes and the efficiency of your gait pattern. Be aware that some lighter weight running shoes may only have a lifespan of between 200 - 500km's.
Wearing signs to look out for in your shoes are creasing through the foam in the midsole, worn areas in the sole/tread pattern or loss of stability. If you sit your shoes on a flat surface, such as a table, and look at them from behind, they should sit straight and evenly. The heel should NOT be tilting inwards or outwards.
If you do decide to get new shoes, I would encourage you to purchase them at least 1 month out from the event to allow enough time to wear them in. Wear them for a few hours around the house initially, then for a few short walks or runs before attempting any long distances. Also try to get the newer version of your current runners if they have worked well for you. But make sure you check there hasn’t been any significant model changes with the newer version. I always recommend getting professionally fitted for running shoes at a store like Active Feet to ensure the shoe is appropriate for your feet and alignment.
2. My toenails are going black and starting to fall off since I've increased my running.
They don’t hurt when I run, but are starting to look pretty ugly. What causes this?
Black or bruised toenails are very common in long distance runners. This happens as a result of micro-trauma to the nails over long distances, which causes bleeding under the nails. Runners are often unaware of any discomfort during runs, but find toenails can be sensitive and easily damaged with fashion/business shoes.
There are many causes of this issue. It can be shoes too short with nails rubbing on the ends, or even too big causing the toes to ‘claw’ onto the shoe for extra stability. Ensure you have the appropriate fit by checking the length from your longest toe (not always the big toe) both before and after a run. Make sure you do this whilst standing up with weight on your foot (it helps to get a friend to check for you) and you should have at least a fingers width between the end of the toe and the end of the shoe. Keep in mind it may be very different pre and post run. Your feet can expand by a full size when running marathon distance and you should be aware of this when fitting your running shoes.
Cushioned socks can also help to reduce this problem. Look for brands such as Thorlo or Experia as they are moisture wicking and also allow for cushioning around the toes. See your Podiatrist for further options if this fails to solve the problem for you.
3. I’m getting sore and tight through the arches and heels of my feet after long runs.
It doesn’t stop me from running, but can be really sore the next morning. What causes this?
Pain or tightness through the heels and arches is usually caused by overload to the plantar fascia. This is a thick, ligament like structure that supports the arch of your foot and acts as a shock absorber each time you take a step. The plantar fascia can often become irritated as a result of overuse and excessive load. There are a variety of things you need to consider in order to resolve this issue.
Shock absorption – Excess shock frequently leads to pain or tightness in the plantar fascia. You should ensure your running shoes have adequate shock absorption and are not worn out. You also need to consider the surfaces you are running on. Concrete or bitumen roads offer little to no shock absorption. Alternatively you should try to do the majority of your training on grass or gravel surface which reduces the demands on the plantar fascia.
Muscle tightness – The plantar fascia inserts onto the front of the heel bone. The Achilles tendon (from the calf muscle) attaches onto the posterior or back of the heel bone. Therefore if the calf muscle is too tight, this in turn puts extra strain on the plantar fascia. Simple, regular stretching of the calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) is important to reduce the stress on the plantar fascia. Massage of both the calf and plantar fascia can also help to reduce tightness in the area.
Inflammation – Whilst studies have shown that the plantar fascia itself is rarely inflamed (it may be thickened but does not necessarily have inflammatory cells present), the surrounding structures can be inflamed and swollen. Ice is a simple modality which can help to not only reduce the inflammation, but also any associated pain.
For more information on heel pain or plantar fasciitis, please click on the link.
Update - check out this video with highlights from the 2013 Melbourne Marathon