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The Dirtiest Pedicure—Foot Care Tips For Runners and Hikers

“Never trust a man with pretty feet.”

Photos & text by Morgan Sjogren

I looked down at Michael's toes, which I thought could not possibly ever get any worse for the wear after years of mountain running and rock climbing, and yet he just accomplished the unthinkable. If you don’t have any toenails to begin with, how much more damage can be done? In two weeks of running that spanned hundreds of miles (including racing a 100K ultra marathon), bagging 22 peaks, and crawling through rugged desert canyons he managed to rough up the stubby fungus ridden nail nubs even more, crack open the calluses on the bottoms of his feet, and worst of all, somehow get a thorn logged inside his big toe causing it to swell and expel puss. Does this make you want to start running yet?

Well, despite the health benefits (like cardio and stress reduction) running and hiking are inherently hard on your feet. While your muscles, ligaments, cardiovascular system, and even mind adapt to running over time, even the most hardened human-powered adventurers are not immune to having a simple singular blister (in the worst places imaginable) knock them off their feet and onto their behinds. Faced with some unplanned down time at basecamp to heal his ravaged feet, he came up with a relaxing and pampering activity to keep his “wheels” in working order—the dirtiest pedicure.

Step One—Epsom Salt Soak

Epsom salts are a natural and ideal way to dry out blisters, eliminate toxins, and soothe aching feet. Heat up some warm water, add the salts, and a splash of essential oils. Use Eucalyptus to help with toe fungus (another nasty side-effect of running and hiking), but lavender can be nice and relaxing. Be sure to take this opportunity to clean out any wounds.

Step Two—Trim Your Toenails

Keeping your toenails at a naturally manageable length is one of the easiest ways to prevent blisters, black toenails, ingrown toenails, and, worst of all, having your nails be the casualty of your next trail outing. Be sure to always trim straight across and never too short to prevent ingrown nails.

Step Three—File Away

Use a soft surfaced nail file to work away calluses, dead skin, and rough edges on nails. While you don’t want to completely remove callused skin, as this is your body’s natural way of preventing blisters, you don’t want excessive build-up either.

Step Four—Goo Up!

Green Goo Foot Care is perfect for any condition that running or hiking can throw at your feet—dry skin, blisters, nail fungus, cuts, and cracked heels. Apply a liberal amount of this  goodness paying special attention to problem areas such as nail beds, tops of toes, and heals.

Step Five—Rub it in

Who doesn’t love a foot massage? Grab a buddy and kindly ask them to look away, lest the appearance of your hard working feet scare them off, and lovingly rub in the Green Goo into your soles. This will increase circulation, improve foot mobility to prevent injuries, and just make you feel good. Be sure to return the favor.

Step Six—Get fancy

Even if you’re not the type to splurge on a real pedicure a splash of colors on your nails, even when they are covered in dirt, will add some pep to your step and aid in hiding some of the damage incurred to your nails by your masochistic hobby of choice.

A few more tips:

If you have a blister, take a sterilized needle (or safety) pin and use it to lance/prick a small hole in the surface of the blister to drain the liquid. Continue taking Epsom Salt baths each day until it is completely dried out.

Let your feet breathe! Running shoes and socks paired with sweat create a moist environment that is a breeding ground for foot ailments like athlete’s foot, fungus, and bacteria. After your run be sure to toss on a pair of comfy sandals to air your dogs out.

While we can’t guarantee a before and after photo as striking as Michael's, a regular pedicure routine (even a dirty one) will ensure that your feet are in prime condition to run wild and even make a presentable appearance at your next sans shoe function. 

Happy Trails!

"Mo," as she is known to her friends, is the author of The Best Bears Ears National Monument Hikes, and she was recently featured in Men's Journal