22nd December 2017. A runner's most important asset isn't their footwear or the technical fabrics that make up their running gear ? it's something far more fundamental than that. It's simply your feet! Keeping your feet in good shape and free from injury is very important for ensuring you can always get your daily miles in and compete in the races for which you've registered. That's often easier said than done, however, and sore, aching feet are a common complaint for runners everywhere. Whether you're brand new to the sport or a long-time veteran, there will always be times when all you can think about is the ache in your feet. What can you do about this problem? Just like you pay close attention to your nutrition, your form, and the running gear you use, your feet are one more area where you need to make some special considerations. From choosing the right footwear and comfy socks to pain-relieving creams and more, there are many ways you can fight back against the pain. In some cases, you might even be able to reduce or avoid the problem altogether at times. So, what are some of the most useful methods for taking care of your feet? Here are some tips and tricks worth a look.

Shoes really matter ? check your fit and replace old shoes

It's hard to overstate the importance of proper footwear for runners. Brand names and fancy features don't really matter in the end. Having shoes that fit your feet properly, though, makes all the difference in the world. If you find your feet hurt all the time or you experience a high number of blisters, chances are you're running with shoes that don't fit. Overly tight footwear puts too much stress on your feet and cuts off circulation. Go too loose, and you'll increase the amount of friction your feet experience, hence the blisters. Check your shoes, and think about replacing them with a pair that fits better. Have your feet sized in-store to choose a product that matches your needs. At the same time, consider replacing your regular shoes as well. Wearing something with more support and padding can make your day to day walking less of a strain.

Keep your feet moisturised and free from dry, cracked skin

For the runner, balancing the level of moisture in your feet is always a tough task. You don't want to foster a humid environment inside your shoe, as that is one factor that can contribute to the development of athlete's foot. At the same time, dry skin is every runner's enemy. Heels and soles that dry out can become cracked, and when you start running, this can lead to plenty of pain and bloody feet. That's not fun ? so use a moisturiser designed for your feet. After a strenuous run, once your feet have dried, apply a moisturiser and rub it in thoroughly. Do this regularly to keep your skin from developing painful cracks. Anti-chafing sticks (more on those below) can also be a helpful addition to your daily regimen, and they have other benefits as well.

Use better socks for running and general use

Socks that do not properly fit your feet are major reason runners develop blisters; your feet rub excessively against the fabric, irritating the skin to the point of blistering. Meanwhile, poor socks can also trap moisture and lead to discomfort and other issues. The solution is to choose socks for running that are both lightweight enough for comfort and breathable enough to allow moisture to escape from your perspiring feet. It can take several attempts before you find the pair that is right for you, but you'll sense the difference immediately. Look for fabrics that can help repel water or wick moisture away ? these are often features you'll find advertised on the product labelling. Compression socks for regular, everyday wear ? and sometimes even for training ? are what some runners swear by; they could work for you also. These socks fit more snugly and help to increase circulation to your lower legs and feet, helping to reduce pain and improve comfort. If you find you often wake up with sore feet, wearing compression socks in the evening can help.

Ice your feet post-run

Don't underestimate the power of ice and rest. After you come in from a very difficult or lengthy run, grab a bucket and fill it with a mixture of ice and water. You don't want it to be too cold, but you do want it to be cold enough that it will help to combat inflammation. Immerse your feet for about 15 minutes maximum, or if you can stand it up to that point. If you feel too uncomfortable using this method, running cold water over your feet in the bathtub or shower can help as well. Prefer to rest lying down? Use an ice pack and elevate your feet above your heart; this will also cut down on inflammation and help reduce the amount of soreness you'll experience the next day. Add rest days after particularly hard runs to give your body a chance to recover.

Focus on exercises that strengthen the toes for a more resilient foot

A large amount of foot pain from running comes from over-stressing parts of your foot that may not be as well-toned as they should be, such as your toes. Over-stressing leads to a weaker running form, which in turn can lead to sports injuries or feet that hurt more than they should. The best way to fight back against this problem is to take charge and start working out your toes more. Several excellent exercises can strengthen the muscles at the front of your feet. These include toe raises, walking on the front of your feet, and stretching your toes before and after a run. After a few weeks of adding these exercises to your routine, you should notice a difference.

Seek guidance on your running form from others

Since the importance of good form keeps coming up, take a moment to think about whether there's anything about the way you run that might contribute to the problem. If you aren't sure, ask a runner friend to watch you and call out any improper motions in your stride. You could also turn to a professional, whether at an athletic store or through professional gait analysis. Watch videos on the web and try to replicate how you see others running; pay attention to how your foot strikes the ground and the way you push off again. When you can identify and correct problems in your stride, it becomes much easier to tell when you're the one causing extra pain for your feet.

Reduce friction on your feet with pre-run lubrication

Just as it's essential to keep your feet moisturised and free from cracked skin, you should look for ways to protect against chafing while you're on the run as well. You may even already apply some runner's body lubricant to other areas to prevent painful chafing. The same can go for your feet, especially around your ankles and in the spaces between your toes. Whether you use one of the anti-chafing sticks mentioned earlier or you opt for a more fluid lubricant, don't use too much. It's easy to overdo it, but the right amount will translate to improved comfort when you run. With fewer blisters and skin that you've taken good care of, running no longer needs to be an exercise in pain. Of course, you still must face the challenge of going the distance.

Experiment with different ideas to find the best solutions

Taking care of your feet when you run doesn't have to be another challenge, and you don't have to resign yourself to waking up with sore, painful feet the morning after every long run. Try compression socks, soak your feet, or try some of the leading creams on the market ? do whatever it takes to find the comfort that you deserve! When you treat your feet right, they'll serve you well when you put your body to the test in a race. Remember, sometimes you just need to take a step back and rest. Your feet need a break just like the rest of you does!