Here are a few simple tricks that will help keep your feet happy, healthy and injury-free.
The most important thing you can do to prevent injury is to get running shoes that fit properly and provide the right amounts of cushioning and support for your foot type.
However, shoes are just one part of the equation. If your feet tend to overpronate (turn inward when your foot strikes) and cause pain in your knees or other parts of your leg, consider using orthotics or shoe inserts for added support. Superfeet insoles have a heel cup and high-profile arch support for motion control, and can be purchased for under $30.
If those don't provide enough support, see your podiatrist for a pair of custom-made orthotics. They can cost several hundred dollars, but they're well worth it if they prevent injury and allow you to keep doing the sports you love.
When it comes to socks, you have a lot of options. Whatever you do, stay away from cotton, which absorbs moisture and causes blisters. Synthetic socks, such as the Wigwam Ultimax Running socks, are made with wicking materials that pull moisture away from the skin. Padding in the heel and toe areas adds some cushioning to help absorb shock.
Or, go the natural route with wool socks, such as the SmartWool Running Ultra Cushion. Unlike other wool socks you might have tried, SmartWool socks don't itch and they don't stretch out of shape. Wool fibers wick moisture and are highly breathable, keeping your feet comfortable in cold and warm temperatures. Another nice feature on these padded socks is a supportive arch brace.
When choosing socks, make sure they fit your foot. Socks that are too big will bunch and create blisters. Socks that are too small can restrict toe movement. Also make sure the socks fit with your shoes, since the extra padding in some styles can make your shoes too tight.
Although blisters aren't as dramatic or interesting as an injury, accident or force of nature, they're just as powerful. A simple blister can cut short your workout or race as effectively as an unforeseen injury. But unlike an accident or bad weather, you can prevent blisters from happening in the first place.
The proper shoes, socks and inserts can go a long ways toward preventing blisters, but one simple thing that's sure to make a difference is petroleum jelly. Before a long run, slather a generous amount of Vaseline over your entire foot. This can help reduce friction and prevent hot spots from happening.
If petroleum jelly won't do the trick, tape your foot before you head out on your run to create a smooth, protective layer between your skin and the area that's causing friction and blisters.
A small amount of duct tape on problem areas can work wonders. Make sure your foot is clean and dry, and apply the tape to the areas that typically develop blisters. Keep the tape smooth, and overlap layers as little as possible. Apply a layer of petroleum jelly over your tape job and around the edges.
Finally, don't forget an occasional foot massage -- they're easy to give to yourself, but they're much better if you can get one from someone else. Your feet will thank you.