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344: Take Care of Your Feet with Dr. Tonya K. Olson, DPT

Feb 01, 2024

Taking Care of Your Runner's Feet – Insights from Dr. Tonya K. Olson, DPT

If you're a runner, whether a weekend warrior or an ultra-marathon enthusiast, your feet are crucial. It's a sad truth that many runners overlook the importance of foot care in their fitness regime. In this post, we tap into the deep knowledge banks of Dr. Tonya K. Olson, a board-certified doctor of physical therapy with extensive experience working with runners. We chat about everything from footwear choices to handling calluses and even the importance of toenail care.


Meet Dr. Tonya K. Olson, DPT

Dr. Tonya Olson has harbored a lifelong interest in foot care. Triggered by her early experiences riding horses – an activity that taught her the importance of caring for an animal's hooves – her fascination for feet was solidified when she began volunteering at ultra-running events and learnt about the sheer number of foot injuries and issues runners face.

Over the past 15 years, Dr. Olson has provided foot care at the Western States 100-mile trail run. She has also co-authored the seventh edition of the book 'Fixing Your Feet'. So, she undoubtedly understands what it feels like to be a runner and knows how to help other runners take care of their feet.


Why Runners Should Think About Their Feet

It may sound obvious, but your feet are a critical part of becoming a successful runner. If your feet aren't healthy, you can't run. However, most runners treat their feet as an afterthought. This neglect can lead to unnecessary discomfort and potentially serious issues.

Dr. Olson emphasizes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Regular foot care, attentive footwear selection, proper foot hygiene, and seeking professional guidance when needed can prevent many foot problems.


The Power of The Correct Footwear

Choosing the right shoe is a big part of foot care. Dr. Olson underlines the need for footwear that caters to your unique needs. Your shoe choice should reflect your build, running style, running surfaces, and distances run. Be prepared to adjust your footwear depending on your circumstances and current goals.

Remember that your footwear choice should not just concern your running shoes. What you wear on your feet throughout the day significantly contributes to your foot health.


Toenails and Calluses – More Than What Meets The Eye

Toenail care is one aspect of foot care that runners often overlook. Dr. Olson suggests keeping toenails short, trimmed straight across the top. Specially, taking a nail file and filing longitudinally from the base to the end can reduce the incidence of injuries.

Callus care is also critical. While calluses naturally occur to protect areas of friction, they can become problematic in longer races. Thus, consider filing down your calluses and keeping your skin soft to prevent any deep blisters.


Taking care of your runner's feet may seem like a chore, but being proactive in foot care can save you from painful issues and keep you running consistently. Remember, each runner is unique, and individualized care and consideration are essential to optimizing foot health. So, keep learning, get to know your feet, and build a relationship with professionals to help guide you towards optimal foot health.

Check out episode 344 for all the details!

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