The ugly side of running

Not to be vain, but for the most part I think running tends to make people better looking. It increases blood flow, giving you better skin, decreases body fat, increases muscle tone and gets you out in the fresh air giving you that “healthy glow” appeal. However, I have noticed one extreme aesthetic downside to all the running I do, and that is the appearance of my feet.

I do not want to turn anyone off of running for fear of getting feet like mine, so I will tell you that it has been a slow and almost imperceptible change over 25 years of running. I used to rather like my feet. I thought they were well proportioned – toes neither too long nor too stubby, nice arches, normal shape. I basically felt confident walking around in bare feet or sandals anywhere. These days however, when I go swimming, I have no problem wearing a bikini in front of strangers but I feel I should keep my feet covered up!

So what do they look like? Basically they have very large callouses along the sides and bottoms (areas that protect them from miles and miles of intense pressure and pounding.) There are a few misshapen toe-nails which have been lost and grown back a few times. Plus the ends of two toes (the longest ones on each foot) are all dead skin and callous – not really sure why this is. Most of the time now I just try to ignore the fact that these appendages are attached to the bottoms of my legs. Generally I cover them with socks and shoes when I can, but as we entered our third or fourth week of sandal season, I realized I could no longer live in denial. I had to do some house-keeping.

So, the other day I took my four-year old daughter (who has encouraged me to stop running so that my feet could get “un-ugly”) to the salon so we could both get pedicures. You see I thought I could bring her along for the cute factor and distract them from the horror they were being asked to fix. I have heard of runners asking them not to remove callouses because they’ve built them up for protection, but I was feeling adventurous and wanted to see an “extreme makeover” so I said nothing and left the challenge in their professional hands.

She had her work cut out for her here

She had her work cut out for her here

The outcome? They were very professional and acted like I was “normal” while removing pounds of dead skin. My feet became presentable and I felt almost confident walking around in my flip-flops.

You can barely tell which ones are the runners' feet

You can barely tell which ones are the runner’s feet

Then I went for my first post-pedicure run. It felt…. the same as usual. I think my callouses are so ingrained they would actually have to be surgically removed at this point. They had returned to their pre-pedicure form within one run.

These were petal-soft one week ago

These were petal-soft one week ago

Oh well. I think I can live with this side-effect from running. I’m sure in another 25 years I’ll look back and think that these were baby callouses! Oh dear…