This past Monday, the 119th Boston Marathon raced through the streets. Over 54,000 people lined up to run the 26.2-mile course. A lot of people wonder what on earth could possess someone to want to do that. 26.2-miles of pounding the pavement must wreak havoc on the legs and feet. So what really does happen to your feet during a marathon?
Before you even start your marathon training, you should go see your podiatrist. They have all the information you could want about what happens to your feet as you are running. They can also help you understand your own foot anatomy or problems and help you choose the perfect pair of running shoes. You need to understand how your foot strikes the ground, what to keep an eye out for if you develop problems, and how to avoid those problems all together.
According to Runnersworld.com, after the knee, the foot is the most injured part of the body. These injuries can be anything from a simple blister to a painful fracture. Don’t worry, blisters are a much more common problem than any other, so don’t use the possibility of a stress fracture as an excuse not to run. “The most common locations for blisters are the sides of the heel, the sides or bottoms of the toes, and the arch of the foot. ‘Hot spots’ are areas on your foot that become warm and painful during or after long runs and may or may not develop into blisters.” http://goo.gl/539v0f
It’s important to understand that places where you develop blisters during a short run may be different than the places where you develop blisters on a long run. Right around the mid point of the marathon, the energy you loaded up with before the race begins to lag. Your legs feel the burn of the miles they have gone through and as a result of you’re your fatigue, your pace and stride change. Any change in your stride will change the stress points of your feet and thus change the ‘hot spots’. This can result in blisters developing in places they normally wouldn’t.
So what is the best way you have your foot strike the ground? “Most of the tenets of good running form are universally agreed upon by coaches, athletes, physiologists, form gurus and shoe designers: an upright postural alignment with a slight forward tilt, a compact arm swing and short strides that result in a cadence of 180 steps per minute.” http://goo.gl/wRrZhJ But when it comes to where and how your foot strikes the ground, there are pros and cons to each style. The important thing is to find what works for you. Over-striding is a common problem with new runners. They extend their legs too far which results in a forceful heel strike and you end up doing more work across the same distance and time.
A mid-foot strike is thought by many to be the ideal gait, but for some, altering your running stride to achieve this, can mean under-striding for those with longer legs. This is equally bad. In the end, it’s all about finding what is right for your feet and legs. Make sure that your stride feels natural. If you end up with severe foot pain after running, you are doing something wrong and it would be best to alter your stride.
Another common problem with marathon runners is the recovery. Don’t just collapse as soon as you cross the finish line. Keep moving for 10 or 20 minutes and avoid standing still. Change into a pair of graduated compression socks to help promote blood flow. Later that day, elevate your legs for 10- 15 minutes to reduce inflammation. Over the next couple of weeks, don’t force yourself to continue heavy training. Short walks or jogs (1 – 2 miles) are ok, but if your feet start protesting, put off resuming your running for a couple more days.
When they say anyone can run a marathon, they mean it. But it’s important to listen to your feet and your podiatrist to ensure proper foot health all the way from the first day of training to weeks after the marathon.