Runners’ feet crave special attention. Rev up your pedicure business by catering to those clients who run for fun or fitness. A foot is a runner’s first point of impact — you can be their first line of defense against injury, through service and education.
Whether your client is new to running and just trying to get into shape, or has been running for years, she needs a pedicurist who understands her individual needs. A runner’s feet tell a story of persistence. A type of “stick-to-it-ive-ness” rewarding the mind and body alike. More and more clients are choosing to run races for charity, sometimes as long as marathons, with little or no previous running experience. They may not know what to expect from their feet. Unfortunately, running also brings some common and mostly preventable problems. A runner’s foot strikes the pavement about 800 times during each mile, with a force of almost triple your body weight. The shock it absorbs may translate into a multitude of maladies.
Common Problems and How You Can Help
Muscle Soreness: Maybe your client has just increased her mileage or introduced a new stretching program — in either case, the muscles in her calves and feet are crying the blues! You can help by utilizing a foot soak that contains Dead Sea salts or Epsom salts and introducing gentle massage. Both Dead Sea salt and Epsom salt contain high levels of magnesium, which is an electrolyte. According to the Epsom Salt Industry Council, magnesium may reduce inflammation and relieve pain, making it beneficial in the treatment of sore muscles. With the Spring shape-up season fast approaching, you will want to stock your retail shelf with at-home foot soaks to soothe away soreness in those aching feet. Encourage clients to ease into new programs and back off if they experience unusual soreness.
Callused Feet: A callus is an area of skin that has thickened due to repeated excess friction and pressure. As pressure increases on the areas, the body attempts to protect itself by adding another layer of protection. “The abnormal pressure can be caused by ill-fitting shoes or an underlying bone problem, such as a bone spur,” says podiatrist Dennis Arnold.
The goal should be to smooth the skin rather than completely remove the callus. Dr. Arnold points out, “There is a fine line between having a bit of toughened skin to protect the foot and having a callus that threatens to form a blister underneath.” So, indulge your clients wishes if they choose to keep a bit more of those hard-earned calluses.
Reducing a callus may be done in the salon during a pedicure, and the client can maintain her baby soft feet at home with a pumice stone. Help her decide on the proper tools for home care and educate her on proper sanitation to keep her safe. If a client has minimal callus, an exfoliating scrub may be all she needs between visits.
As pedicurists, you are in a position to alert clients of potential problems and guide them to finding answers. Develop a relationship with a local running store where you can refer clients in need of a great-fitting running shoe. Get to know a local podiatrist who treats runners. [See “Making a Podiatrist Connection” in NAILS’ August 2006 issue or at nailsmag.com.] If you have trouble making the connection, look to the International Pedicure Association for assistance. Peruse books on running to familiarize yourself with the mechanics.
Blisters: When there is too much friction applied to the skin, the body may respond by forming a blister. Fluid develops between the layers of skin. Sometimes, the blister will form under a callus. Preventing excess callus formation may help prevent blisters. Shoes that are too big or too small may lead to excess friction. Finding the right shoe and wearing a sock made of fibers that wick moisture away from the skin will help reduce friction. Hot or wet weather may also increase the likelihood of blisters. Experiment with moleskin to pad areas that frequently develop “hot spots.”
If a client has a blister that is intact and does not appear to be infected, you may pedicure the feet, very gently, being careful to not disturb or put pressure on the blister and surrounding area. Caution them not to pop the blister, and to seek medical attention if it becomes too painful or appears infected.
Plantar Fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is characterized by the extreme arch and heel pain sufferers feel when they first get out of bed in the morning. This is caused by inflammation of the fascia on the bottom of the foot. Overtraining and imbalances can bring on symptoms.
“Runners may overpronate, causing feet to roll inward, or supinate, causing them to roll outward,” explains Dr. Arnold. “Over-the-counter arch supports or custom orthotics may help to correct the structural imbalance. Gentle stretching may help. Don’t overdo it. Build gradually. Overpronaters need more stability in a shoe, while those who supinate need more cushioning features. A specialty running store may be better equipped to identify the proper shoe for runners.”
He also supports massage as therapeutic in recovery from plantar fasciitis. Pedicurists may incorporate specialized massage or even train clients in some home-care techniques. There are myriad foot care products designed to stretch, massage, and stimulate. You might consider adding a few to your retail area if you regularly market to runners. Warm foot soaks with Dead Sea or Epsom salts may also reduce the pain.
Bruised Toenails: “Runner’s toe” is common when shoes don’t fit properly and the toe bangs against the toe box of the shoe repeatedly. “It’s important to try shoes on both feet during fitting, to make sure there is adequate room in the toe box of the shoe,” advises Dr. Arnold. Some people find it helpful to shop at the end of the day when their feet are the largest, since some runners experience swollen feet. Keeping the toenails short will reduce the risk of bruising or becoming ingrown. Schedule an appointment between pedicures simply to shorten the toenails and change the polish. If bruised nails become painful, refer your client to a physician.