The Next Salty Challenge: Embracing Our Runner Feet

I won’t fess up to what pair are mine; although, let’s be honest, take a close look and you can tell.

Corns. Blisters.  Calluses. Toenails … black or blue ones, that is. Sound familiar?

I don’t know about you, but if there’s anything about my body that is a dead give-a-way that I enjoy pounding the pavement and getting early morning miles under my belt, it’s my feet. The thought of getting a pedicure or wearing flip flops makes me cringe. Regardless of the best training shoes and the blister-blocking socks, after training for a marathon or half marathon or even after racing a 5k hard, my second toe, my Morton’s toe, never fails to end up with a blue toenail, and not the sparkly bright blue polish kind.

I can cope normally – I just hide those suckers in my favorite Brooks Pure Flows. But, I have a wedding in less than three months and a pair of otherwise perfect peep-toes I need to wear without embarrassing myself! What’s a girl to do?!

Besides the wedding shoes, a goal of mine is to love every part of my body, including my little piggies. I think all women should have this goal. We are worth it. So, I’m challenging myself to get a pedicure with confidence in time for my wedding in April. I’ve had nightmares about it. Seriously. Every time I get a pedicure I find myself giving the technician a disclaimer: “I’m a long-distance runner. I’m so sorry. My feet are beat up and naaaasty!” How can I look at my feet as proof to my dedication to the sport of running and stop obsessing over the ugliness?

I’m getting my runner’s feet spiffed up for these puppies, even if I die of embarrassment in the process.

First, a little background on common runner feet ailments:

Corns & Calluses!

Yep, we runners all have ’em. Thick, hardened areas of dead skin. So sexy! Often our bodies create these as a defense mechanism, to help protect skin from pressure, friction and injury.  They just mean your footsies are working hard. The good news is, contrary to popular belief, calluses and corns are NOT contagious and aren’t caused by a virus, like warts and at least they don’t appear on your forehead or something. You can always try corn remover, but personally, I’ve never had any luck. Corns and callouses are just something we have to live with.


You can wear blister-blocking socks and make sure to buy running shoes that are typically 1/2 size bigger than your day-to-day street shoes to  prevent blisters, but any remaining friction will cause  these pesky bubbles of fluid. Blisters typically go away in a few days, breaking on their own with the fluid draining. However if the pressure gets painful, you can release it by lancing the blister. Boil a needle for 5-10 minutes, dip in some rubbing alcohol, gently pierce the bubble, apply pressure, and bandage with some antiseptic. I’ve found the Band-Aid Blister Blocks aid in extra cushioning while healing.

Blue/Black Toenails!

The prettiest problem, blue or black toenails, are caused by a blood blister that just happens to form underneath your toenail. Lovely. The higher impact activity of running may result in repeated banging in the toe box of your shoe, causing this bruise to form. Making sure your trainers are roomy enough, getting yourself professionally sized at a running shop. Also make sure to keep your nails trimmed short. This can help prevent this not-so-attractive injury. Usually, the problem takes care of itself and ultimately, the toenail falls off as the skin beneath the nail heals and is replaced by a healthy new one. However, if the pain is throbbing for more than 24 hours, you might try to lance the blister. This is a little trickier than a blister not under a nail, but it’s the same concept. Sterilize the needle, insert it under the nail. There is sometimes a lot of pressure built up so you might hear a pop or a hissing sound and blood might squirt out! CRAZY! If pus comes out (tasty) or the nail is throbbing and just doesn’t seem right, there’s a chance it may be infected and you should get to the doctor.

Morton’s Toe!

This is a fancy term for having an abnormally long second toe. So long, in fact, that it exceeds the length of the big toe. I typically wear a size 8 1/2 in work shoes and bump up to a 9 in running shoes. Though the shoes work great for most of my toes, the Morton always, always ends up turning blue. If I go a 1/2 size bigger, though, the other toes are completely swimming and get all blistery. Just what is a girl to do? Does anyone else have this problem?

 A Salty Challenge for Us!

I’m sick of hatin my runner feet. I want to embrace my Morton, my callused heel and corn-covered pinky (!). So, I’m challenging myself and all you other self-prescribed feet-haters out there to embrace those runner girl footsies! Let’s be confident the next time we walk into that nail salon and request a spa pedicure, complete with foot massage and lemon sugar scrub.  We runners should all be proud of the battle scars. Heck, with the trend of bare-foot running, the runners foot may even get groadier, so our feet might not be bottom of the line! So, you nail technicians, foot massagers, and orthopedic podiatrists LOOK OUT!

How do you feel about your runner feet? Are you willing to take this Salty Challenge with me?

I'm a new momma, full-time non-profiter, and coffee lover. I write about healthy body image, half marathon training, and recovery from eating disorders. I'm currently training to maintain fitness throughout the winter and break 1:27:00 in my next half marathon.

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  1. I soak my feet in a foot bath at least once a week, trim the nails, followed by a scrub, and then use a pumice stone to file down corns & callouses. I also use Bath & Body Works True Blue Spa Shea Butter super rich foot cream on my feet every night (apply before bed). It really works! I’ve been told I don’t look like I have runner’s feet, even when I was training for a 50 miler.

    No Morton’s Toe here though – very short & stubby toes!

    1. Hi Jen!
      Thanks for the tips. I also do the pumice stone and I LOVE Bath and Body’s True Blue Spa Shea Butter – works like magic. I’ll have to try the applying before bed, though. I’ve never trained for a 50-miler, so I’d be afraid to think how beat up my feet would get for that! Unfortunately, like the rest of my body, my toes are loooong and lanky (if toes can be lanky?!)

  2. I really need to do more maintenance on my feet as well. I’ve kind of just written them off that they’re always going to be gross and unsightly. However, maybe I should put a little more love and tlc into them and they won’t be so scary

  3. Heh. I always say that my feet take one for the team, but my back side thanks them for it. And I have to admit that I don’t even mind when I get a black toenail after a race because I can gross my kids out. It’s all fun and games until mom yanks off a toe nail. 🙂

    I love my runner feet.

    1. LOL! That’s awesome! My husband and I used to have who had the grosser black toenail competitions. I think of my runner feet as badges of honor too 🙂

  4. Ginkgo, I could have written this post in 2007 when I was planning my wedding. I got married three weeks after my goal marathon and SOMEHOW managed to look good in my peep toes. Good luck and GREAT POST!

  5. This post makes me laugh, and I can relate sooooo much. I am afraid to show someone my toes, and I cringe at wearing open-toed shoes! My left big toenail always falls off, and my other ones are uneven and just ugly. I also have Morton’s toe on both my feet–really bad.

    Something I just learned about Morton’s toe when I was fitted with my Newtons…it can lead to some stubborn running aches and injuries. Apparently, the longer length of the toe prevents proper rolling of the foot when we strike. I was told it doesn’t provide the proper support, and the guy tweaked my inserts by adding a slight wedge to them. So far, it’s been great, and I don’t get as many aches in my foot! Something to think about…..

    1. I have Morton’s Toe too. I’m curious about getting a little pillow for them 🙂 I do get pain in my big toes from time to time and wonder if it’s related. I want more info on this wedge!

  6. Meggie, this is hilarious and quite timely. I must confess, I shall not be submitting my feet to any lemon-sugar scrubs any time soon, but the truth is I have come to accept my feet as a badge of honor. I’m more likely to have mud underneath my nails than nail polish on top of them, and I drained something so FOUL out of my big toe last Friday that I didn’t know whether to be disgusted or proud.

    But the sign one is truly ready for a 100-miler? I began my final nail clipping session yesterday morning only to discover that I was missing one of my smaller toenails – and I don’t even remember losing it. Surely it is in a sock somewhere.

    Also, I name my blisters and DB has a toenail necklace.

  7. Vanilla- I often get charlie horses in my feet at night after long runs – I wonder if that’s at all related to the Morton thing! I’ll have to scope out this wedge thing.
    Salty- If you could look sexy in your peep toes, I have faith I can pull it off. Thanks 🙂
    Clove- You are hilarious. And a toenail necklace?!?!?! LOL. See how much you can sell that for on E-bay!

  8. I love this post! I am a total pedicure girl, not so much for being frou frou but for pampering my feet for all the hard work they do. Although during marathon training, it’s pretty pointless since I do manage to wreck pedis quickly. Right now, I am debating on getting one, but since I have another 20 miler in 3 weeks… haha, maybe not. One bonus of having runner’s feet is that I don’t like to wear open-toed shoes at work, thus I can get totally ridic colors on my toes!