Running offers multifaceted benefits for your physical and mental well-being. It can improve your cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, enhance bone density, boost energy levels and promote a positive mood. Runners who train year-round must keep their feet in optimal condition to enjoy every workout. Extreme weather can impact how, when and where you run, but there are ways to combat this and stay on track — literally.
This guide offers common-sense winter running foot care tips. Learn more about buying supportive shoes, winter foot issues and injuries to anticipate, how to manage moisture and why pre-run warmups and post-run foot care are vital for maintaining healthy feet.
Choosing Appropriate Footwear
Don’t compromise on footwear if you run regularly. Running shoes should provide sufficient support during cold-weather running and must be comfortable without restricting your feet. Some running shoes have insulation to regulate how warm your feet get, while others are water-resistant for better traction. A suitable shoe should reduce the risk of ankle injuries while running, where the chances of slipping or falling on uneven terrain increase.
Quality road running shoes are essential, but you might benefit more from a trail running shoe designed for better grip on slippery surfaces. They handle demanding terrains like rocks, slopes and pathways. Some benefits of trail running shoes include:
- Thicker outsoles give you increased traction on gravel and uneven ground.
- Firmer midsoles provide less cushioning and more stability on soft surfaces.
- They are lightweight and flexible, with the grippy tread of hiking boots.
- Non-mesh protective uppers are sturdier and often insulated and waterproof for better protection.
The shoe should fit snugly, not too loosely or tightly, allowing toe room and extra space for additional layering with thicker socks.
Common Winter Foot Issues and Injuries
Winter creates ideal conditions for foot issues and injuries to occur. Moisture impacts your feet inside and outside the shoe. External factors like snow and slush affect how wet your feet get while running. Even the flat or rocky roads and paths you run on affect your performance. A slight misstep can have serious implications.
Excess moisture can cause blisters when your skin becomes soft and experiences constant friction. Other foot conditions that may occur include:
- Athlete’s foot
- Stress fractures
- Ingrown toenails
- Damaged toenails
- Corns and bunions
- Foot fungal infections
- Hallux rigidus, or a stiff big toe
- Plantar fasciitis, or plantar fascia inflammation
Winter Moisture Management
Winter brings rain, sleet, snow and mud. Manage excess moisture by wearing wicking socks that absorb sweat to keep your feet dry. The material is breathable and dries quickly, preventing discomfort.
Wet feet can cause skin issues like blisters and other conditions. Applying foot powder before putting on socks creates a protective barrier that controls moisture. Blister patches or lubricants help minimize friction that often leads to blisters.
A tip to relieve tension and improve circulation is to roll a tennis ball underneath and along the ball of each foot. Regular foot massages are also essential for stimulating blood flow and releasing stress.
Warmups play a crucial role in preparing your body for physical activity. Movements boost blood flow, enhancing flexibility and reducing your risk of injury. Warmups also raise your core body temperature and help you mentally transition into your workout.
Before running, do simple movements like calf stretches, ankle rotations and marching in place. They increase your circulation and flexibility, so you’re at less risk of experiencing cramps or strains.
Warming up indoors prepares your feet for the cold temperatures and further reduces the chances of injury. Your workout location is also crucial. Avoid slippery roads and paths with ice patches that could lead to slips and falls. In extreme conditions, consider alternatives like an indoor running track with a flat, supportive surface. Modifying your route ensures you don’t disrupt your training by missing days.
Post-Run Winter Foot Care
After running, immediately remove your wet shoes and socks and leave your shoes in an area to air out. Dry your feet thoroughly if you plan to postpone your shower. Focus on the skin between your toes, which tends to remain moist if not dried properly, causing cracks and flaky skin. In some cases, you could develop fungal infections and conditions like athlete’s foot.
Keep your skin hydrated with lotion and foot balms to reduce swelling and prevent cracking and dryness. Post-run footwear is vital. Consider wearing Vionic shoes that promote stability and offer extra support to keep your feet in good shape.
Protecting Your Feet From the Cold
Keeping your feet warm and comfortable is the best protection against the cold. Wearing appropriate running shoes and socks ensures your feet stay as dry as possible, despite rain, snow or sweat. Avoid running in overly wet conditions and run indoors, ensuring your feet are completely dry.
Layering by adding a thin liner sock underneath a thicker sock provides additional insulation to prevent friction. It helps prevent frostbite and other cold-related injuries commonly experienced during winter. Thicker socks with proper cushioning offer extra support by absorbing most of the impact. They are warmer, especially wicking socks that absorb moisture faster.
Consult a Podiatrist at Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates for Foot Care Advice and Treatment
Avid runners know the importance of protecting their feet so they can continue enjoying their workouts year-round. If you love to run, you’ll benefit from seeing a podiatrist to discuss any potential issues you may experience. Disclose any past injuries and bring a list of concerns to discuss during your appointment for complete peace of mind.
At Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates, our highly trained team of podiatrists has the knowledge, experience and expertise to treat foot conditions and help get you back in action in no time.
If you’re interested in booking a consultation, call us at 360-795-5462 or email us with your inquiry.