Foot Health

Active Feet

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Information on Running,Walking and other activities.

Running

It is a good idea for a beginning jogger to visit a podiatrist before starting an exercise program. Your podiatrist will examine your feet and identify potential problems, discuss conditioning, recommend the best style of footwear for your feet and, if needed, prescribe an orthotic device that fits into a running shoe.

Frequent joggers ought to see a podiatrist regularly to check for any potential stress on the lower extremities. During a 10-mile run, the feet make 15,000 strikes at a force of three to four times the body's weight.

Anyone, regardless of age, should check with a doctor if a cardiac condition, weight problem, or other medical complication already exists.

Training Tips

Systematic exercises must progress slowly from easy to rigorous to prevent debilitating muscle strain or more serious injury. The best and safest way to start a running program is with a four-day-per-week conditioning program for 12 to 16 weeks.

Begin with two sets of two-minute jogs interspersed with five minutes of fast walking. If your muscles are stiff, walk only. Have an "easy day" if you're in pain. As the weeks progress, gradually increase the number of minutes jogged per set to 20 minutes. Spend at least five workouts at each new level attained. To maintain interest, vary the location of your training and bring a friend along.

By the 16th week, you should be able to run two sets of 20 minutes each, with a five-minute walk before, between, and after. Make adjustments for heat and altitude, and don't be frustrated if you think your pace is too slow. Remember, a disciplined regimen will decrease your chances of injury.

Proper foot hygiene can also prevent injuries. Keeping feet powdered and dry is important, especially to the jogger suffering from blisters. Blisters can be prevented by application of petroleum jelly or creams to the feet where they occur or wearing two pairs of running socks.

The Importance of Stretching

Before beginning an exercise regimen, warm-up and proper stretching is essential. If muscles are properly warmed up, the strain on muscles, tendons, and joints is reduced.

Stretching exercises should take five to10 minutes, and ought to be conducted in a stretch-hold-relax pattern without any bouncing or pulling. It is important to stretch the propulsion muscles in the back of the leg and thigh (posterior); do not forget the anterior muscles. Do not forget the all-important stretching after your walk or run as well. Some effective stretching exercises include:

  • The wall push-up - Face a wall from three feet away, with feet flat on the floor, and knees locked. Lean into the wall, keeping feet on the floor and hold for 30 seconds as the calf muscle stretches, then relax. Do not bounce. Repeat five times.
  • The hamstring stretch - Put your foot, with knee straight, locked, on a chair or table. Keep the other leg straight with knee locked. Lower your head toward the knee until the muscles are tight. Hold to a count of 30 then relax. Repeat five times, then switch to the other leg.
  • Lower back stretch - In a standing position, keep both legs straight, feet spread slightly. Bend over at the waist and attempt to touch the palms of your hands to the floor. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat.

Proper Footwear

Shoe choice should be determined by weight, foot structure and running regimen. Keep in mind that all shoes have a different shape, and sizes and widths are not uniform from shoe to shoe.

Consider whether an orthotic device will be placed in your shoe, and whether your running style is flat-footed or on the balls of the feet. Shoes should provide cushioning for shock absorption, and ought to be able to fully bend at the ball of the foot area. Visit the shoe store in the afternoon, when the feet are slightly swollen, and wear thick running socks when trying shoes on.

Aches and Pains of Running

Even with the best preparation, aches and pains are an inevitable result of a new jogging regimen. If the pain subsides with slow easy exercise, you may continue, but if it gets worse, stop the activity and rest. If it persists, see your podiatrist.

The most common pain associated with jogging is known as runner's knee, a catch-all for jogging-related knee pain. One of the most common causes of runner's knee is excessive pronation, or rolling in and down, of the foot.
Orthoses (shoe inserts or "orthotics") prescribed by your podiatrist can be an effective way to alleviate the problem. Occasionally, rubber pads in the arch of the shoe may help.

Shin splints, which appear as pain at the front and inside of the leg, are caused by running on hard surfaces, over-striding, muscle imbalance or overuse. Treatment includes changing running technique or insertion of an orthotic device in the shoe.

Winter Running

Dedicated runners hate to give up their passion during the winter months. Remember, however, that muscles take longer to warm up in the cold, and the body is much more susceptible to muscle pull and tear injuries. Proper stretching is essential.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, runners may change their foot-strike pattern to protect themselves, which can lead to muscle strain or other overuse injuries. To increase traction, runners may land on slippery surfaces with the whole foot instead of the natural rolling action of the heel-to-toe strike. Lateral slippage could result in a painful groin pull.

Even though your feet are in motion while running, they're still susceptible to frostbite in thin nylon running shoes. Feet will sweat while running, and cold will permeate the thin material, inviting the condition. If shoes are too tight, there is an even greater chance of frostbite.

Problems to Watch For

Frostbite - It's impossible to overstate the importance of understanding symptoms of frostbite. Skin-colour changes, from blue to white, can't be seen under a boot, but if toes are extremely cold for a prolonged period, feel burning or numb, there is a danger of frostbite. People with a history of frostbite often get it again in the same place.

Blisters - Friction in winter sports footwear often causes blisters. Do not pop a small blister, but if it breaks on its own, apply an antiseptic and cover with a sterile bandage. Wearing two pair of thin socks may help reduce friction.

Neuromas - Enlarged benign growths of nerves between the toes, called neuromas, are caused by friction in tight footwear and can result in pain, burning, tingling, or numbness. Neuromas require professional treatment, including an evaluation of shoes.

Shin splints - Pain to either side of the leg bone, caused by muscle or tendon inflammation. This may be related to a muscle imbalance between opposing muscle groups in the leg. It is commonly related to excessive foot pronation (collapsing arch). Proper stretching and corrective orthoses for pronation can help prevent shin splints.

Sprains and strains - The stress of winter running can result in sprains and strains of the foot and ankle. They can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). If pain persists, seek medical attention from your Podiatrist.

Subungal hematoma - Pressure in the toe box of a running shoe can result in bleeding under the toenail known as a subungal hematoma or "blackened toenail." See a podiatrist to help prevent the loss of a toenail.

Bone problems - Bunions and tailor's bunions, bony prominences at the joints on the inside or outside of the foot, often become irritated. Pain at these joints may indicate a need for a wider or better-fitting shoe. Other pre-existing conditions, such as hammertoes and Haglund's Deformity (a bump on the back of the heel) can be irritated by an active winter sports regimen. If pain persists, consult a podiatrist. Fractures caused by trauma require immediate medical attention.

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