- Calluses? Check.
- Blisters? Check. Check.
- Black or missing toenails? Check. Check. Check. (okay, not me per se, but I do know many runners who are missing toenails)
- Foot fungus? Let’s try not to think about this one too much...
I was thinking about runner’s feet the other day in church. I had taken the daring step of actually wearing flip flops to church, baring my unsightly feet to all. Okay, granted, I probably should have been focused on something other than my feet, but every time I bent my head for a prayer, there they were like my own personal beacon of shame/badge of honor (it’s up to you to decide). And all I could think was ‘man, those are some ugly feet!’
Even on a good day my feet would not win any beauty contests, but since starting to run serious distances they have taken ugliness to the next level. The bottoms of my feet are completely callused over from the backs of my heels, all the way to the tips of my toes (yes, everyone, what started out as blisters on the tips of my toes have, over time, aged into well worn, toughened calluses. My toenails on a couple of my toes curl if I don’t keep them meticulously trimmed and although I don’t yet have any missing toenails, I do have one that is really tender to the touch after long runs and I wouldn’t be surprised if I lost it at some point in the future… to anyone but a runner this would be an “EWWW, GROSS!!!” moment.
These are just a few of the unsightly attributes that say to all around you that yes, you are a runner. In fact, horribly ugly feet are so commonplace among runners that Mark Remy in his book The Runner’s Field Manual devotes an entire section on not subjecting strangers to your offensive feet which will no doubt scare small children and turn even the strongest of stomachs. He even has guidelines on offering aid to those who have been traumatized by seeing your feet for the first time.
Then, in the ultimate insult to injured dignity, we runners are not allowed to go get pedicures to get rid of all that disfigurement adorning our feet. No, those calluses are there to protect us and to remove them would be akin to saying all those miles spent building up those protective barriers don’t matter. It would be like admitting that you love blisters and are willing to throw away all that work just for the sake of vanity. The best we can hope for is a little nail trimming, a little cuticle maintenance and a coat of polish to hopefully hide those nails that haven’t come off but are threatening to (my sis-in-law even has a friend who painted the callused nailbed where the nail used to be so as to not draw unnecessary attention to the offending digit).
Alas, most people won’t understand the seemingly unfounded pride we have in the runners’ version of battle scars and it’s not like I go around explaining myself, telling people ‘Don’t mind my feet, I’m a runner.’ Still, as unsightly as they are, I think my (our) feet have earned the right to go out in the sunshine and fresh air completely unhindered by stability shoes and toe socks. Still, I might think about carrying smelling salts with me for small children or the uninitiated who are subjected to my lack of shame over my feet.
12.04 Miles (long run day!)
12.04 Miles (long run day!)