Throughout my years in practice, I’ve seen many fitness goals come crashing down when an injury happens. When you’re hurt, not only are you in pain, but you’re also frustrated, demoralized, and probably thinking that you’ll never reach your goals. As part of the Fit Journey team, I’m going to give you tips for injury prevention. I’ve got you covered from top to bottom—or in this case, from bottom to top, starting with your feet.
Each time your foot hits the ground, it starts a chain reaction that goes up to your knees, hips and pelvis. If you have Ill-fitting shoes, a fallen arch, or any other foot condition you run the risk of doing harm to other parts of your body as well.
Shoes. Spend time getting the right kind. If you’re thinking about using the same pair you’ve had for years, think again. Your sneakers have a shelf life. The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine suggests that you replace your shoes after 300-500 miles of running, 45-60 hours of aerobics (such as basketball, dance, tennis), or at signs of wear in the sole of the shoe. Try this: Put both of your shoes on a flat surface and look at the heel. Now turn your shoe upside down and look at the wear pattern. If you notice any unevenness, then it’s time for a new pair. Even if your shoes look perfect, you should replace them at least once a year. Go to a specialty shoe store or running shop that will spend time with you to fit you properly. Spending some extra time and money on the perfect shoe will prevent injuries and save you in the long run—no pun intended!
Insoles. Most of us have lost the natural arch in our foot to some degree. This is especially true for obese individuals or for women who have been pregnant. Whatever the reason for a fallen arch, it is important to address the issue to prevent conditions like plantar fasciitis or heel spurs. A shoe insole or orthotic can help. The crème de la crème of insoles are custom orthotics made by a podiatrist. New York-based podiatrist Brian Dawson, DPM, says that custom orthotics will usually last anywhere from 2-3 years, depending on usage and weight of the individual. “It’s unlikely that they’ll wear down in less than a year, even with an obese and highly active user,” says Dr. Dawson. Unfortunately, some insurance plans will not cover custom-made orthotics. The average out-of-pocket price is around $600, but can sometimes cost up to $900. Another option would be over-the-counter insoles, the best quality of which can be found at running shops, specialty shoe stores or even high-end shoemakers. They can run $60-150 but will likely break down faster than their custom counterparts. If you go the OTC route and find them useful, it might make you more comfortable dishing out the big bucks for a custom pair down the road. Dr. Dawson says, “Try Powerstep or Superfeet. If they’re helpful, I’d suggest you try custom insoles for a more permanent and custom solution.”
If your feet are prone to having problems or if they already hurt, here are some things you should be doing on a regular basis.
- Image from www.expertrunningguide.com
Stretching. Be sure to stretch your calves. The two muscles that you need to focus on the most are the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Start put putting your foot up against a step to stretch the gastroc and Achilles tendon. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Then slightly bend your knee and lean forward. You will feel a stretch deeper into the calf. This is the soleus muscle and it’s often overlooked. Hold this for 10-15 seconds
Self-massage. You can use low tech tools like a golf ball, frozen water bottle, and a foam roller for this. Use a golf ball to do self-massage on the soles of your feet. Simply put the golf ball on the floor and roll the bottom of your foot over it, concentrating on sore spots. Listen to your body and only use as much you can tolerate. The more you do it, the less painful it should be. Bonus: you can do this while you’re sitting at the office. A frozen water bottle will be soothing on your feet at the end of the day. Simply roll your foot back and forth on it to massage and decrease inflammation at the same time. Don’t forget to self-massage the calf muscles that can contribute to foot pain. Start by sitting on the floor with a foam roller under your calves. Place your arms behind you and use them to lift yourself up and roll back and forth along your calves. Roll back and forth until you find sore spots and try to focus more attention there.
Author: Dr. Angela Fain