If your toenail turns blue after a race, it is possible that your shoe is too small

Fitness Q & A

Health & Fitness

September 05, 2004|By Gailor Large | Gailor Large,Special to the Sun

The nail on my second -- and longest -- toe turned blue after a 10K race. What can I do to prevent this from happening again?

Most anyone who has played a competitive sport can relate to blistered and bruised toes and the occasional loss of a toenail. Surprisingly, though, few people seem to know how to prevent a recurrence.

Jim Adams, owner of the Falls Road Running Store in Baltimore, says your problem is most likely the result of small shoes. The end of your shoe should be one-half to a full thumb's width past your longest toe. Also, running shoes are usually cut smaller than street shoes, says Adams. If you wear a size 7 street shoe, he says, you should try on running shoes in a size 7 1/2 or 8.

The swelling that occurs during a long race, particularly in the summer, is another reason why you should go big. Just make sure your shoes aren't so huge that your feet are sliding -- this will cause blisters.

Finally, the shape of your shoe should roughly match the shape of your foot, says Adams. If your toes are all different lengths, don't buy a shoe with a blunt front.

How do I stretch my hip flexors?

Athletes -- particularly soccer players, martial-arts experts and bicyclists -- are at risk for a hip flexor strain if the muscle isn't properly stretched.

Here's a great stretch for targeting the hip flexor: Sit on the right edge of a chair with your left foot planted on the floor in front of you and your right leg behind you, knee pointed toward the floor. Your toes and the ball of your right foot should be on the ground. Tightening your rear end, gently press your right hip forward. You should feel a deep stretch in your hip flexor. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg.

Another simple stretch is the traditional quadriceps stretch (where you grasp your ankle and pull it toward your backside), but do it lying on your side with the leg you're stretching on top.

I was given a new bike for my birthday last month and want to try competing in races. Where can I find out about local events?

Bike shops often display fliers for road races and mountain-biking events. Daniel Single, a sales manager at Performance Bicycle Shop in Parkville, says most shops also carry free publications, such as Metro Sports and Spokes Magazine, that list events.

Single also recommends Velo News for road racers and Dirt Rag for mountain bikers. Turn to the classic favorite, Bicycling Magazine, for training tips. If you prefer the Web, visit the Mid Atlantic Bicycle Racing Association at www. mabra.org.

Do you have a fitness question? Write to Fitness, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278. You can also fax questions to 410-783-2519 or e-mail fitness@baltsun.com.

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