The Athlete's Guide to Foot Problems (and How to Fix Them for Good)

Take care of the two things that support you wherever you go—and endure the most abuse

Oct 29, 2015
Outside Magazine
The Athlete's Guide to Foot Problems (and How to Fix Them for Good)

Clockwise from top left: Burt's Bees Peppermint foot lotion, Kiehl's Superbly Efficient Anti-Persperant and Deodorant cream, Tweezerman Gear Precision Grip toenail clippers, Lush T for Toes foot powder.    Photo: Dustin Sammann

Foot problems are as familiar to most athletes as dehydration and sugar in squeeze tubes. If you ski, run, bike, hike, or climb, your dogs are going to take a beating. Treat them right with our three-step plan.

1. Get the Kit

Tweezerman Gear Precision Grip toenail clippers ($14)
Trim toenails fairly short and straight across—not with the curve of the toe. File edges smooth. 

Lush T for Toes foot powder 
While we can’t promise that the tea-tree and lime oils in this absorbent powder will kill stink completely, they’ll definitely help. Particularly effective when sprinkled in climbing shoes.

Burt’s Bees Peppermint foot lotion ($9)
Like Icy Hot for your feet. Cools aches and pains after a long day.

2. Get Healed

Blisters are caused by friction. The best defense: make sure your shoes fit and are big enough in the toe box, and always wear high-quality moisture-wicking socks. If you do get one, drain the fluid using a sterilized needle and cover with a cushioned bandage like Spenco’s Second Skin blister pads ($10). Stick a layer of tape over the patch before your next outing. 

3. Get Schooled

Cody Townsend, Skier

“Usually those weird growths people get on their feet from ski boots aren’t from the boots being too tight; it’s that they’re too loose. If your midfoot isn’t secured properly, then your forefoot will ever so slightly rub on pressure points. Clamp down the heel in the back of your boot and lock down your midfoot. It’ll prevent your foot from sliding and building up those gnarly bumps.” 

“A dry foot is one of the best ways to prevent freezing your toes off. Most moisture in your boot comes from your body, not the snow around you.” Try Kiehl’s Superbly Efficient Anti-Perspirant and Deodorant cream ($16).

Cedar Wright, Climber

“One of the worst problems I’ve dealt with is what I call toe hole: when the space between the pinky and the adjacent digit festers and cracks after being wet. It’s remarkably painful for being such a small, inconsequential area. I’ve learned to always dry out my feet.” 

“On any extended hike, wear thick, tightly woven socks.” 

“On really long routes, bring two pairs of climbing shoes—one larger for easier pitches and a tight-fitting pair for hard stuff.” 

Hal Koerner, Ultrarunner; owner of Rogue Valley Runners

“When selling shoes at the store, we stress that the foot needs room to splay. Your foot can swell up a whole size during a race, but you should always have lots of room to wiggle in the toe box while staying snug through the instep.” 

“I roll the undersides of my feet on a tennis ball to work out the plantar fascia.” 

“When I watch TV, I use toe spacers. They look funny, but the prolonged stretch helps prevent intermetatarsal neuromas, when a nerve between two toes gets enlarged due to repeated compression.” 

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