|Many people with a history of
cardiac disease, weight problem, and those 40, realize that before
setting off on a fitness program, it is a good idea to see their family
physician for a general physical examination. Your physician may
wish to perform an EKG (also known as an ECG, or electrocardiogram), to
assess your blood and blood pressure, and to check you for any breathing
problems before giving you the green flag to begin an exercise
But fewer people realize that it is equally
important to make certain your feet are in good working order before beginning
their exercise program. Yet imagine
the complexity of each foot during sports--its combination of 28 bones, 33
joints, 112 ligaments, and a network of muscles, tendons, nerves, arteries
and veins all working together in sporting activity. The entire body
depends on each foot to provide support, balance, coordination, and
movement, all the while counting upon it to absorb the equivalent force of
anywhere from 2 to 10 times your body weight, depending upon your activity.
Runners, in particular, need to be seen regularly to check for any
potential stress on the lower extremities. During a 10-mile run,
for example, the
feet hit the pavement 15,000 times!
before you begin a fitness
program, make certain that your feet are in good working order.
Where to begin
By being assessed by a podiatrist before
beginning an exercise program, we can identify potential problems,
discuss conditioning, recommend the best style of footwear for your
particular feet, and when necessary to control foot pathology, prescribe an
fits into your footwear.
Once you start
Once you're thoroughly examined and have
been given an okay to begin an exercise program, you're ready to begin,
and a good place to begin is with stretching
Importance of Stretching
Before beginning an exercise regimen, proper stretching is essential.
If muscles are properly warmed up, the strain on muscles, tendons,
ligaments and joints is reduced.
Stretching exercises need only take 5 or 10 minutes, and ought to be conducted in a
stretch/hold/relax pattern, with each stretch held for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
There should be no bouncing, pulling, strain or pain. While you cannot
forget the muscles on the front of the leg and thigh, it is particularly important to
stretch the propulsion muscles in the back of the leg and thigh (posterior).
effective stretching exercises include:
The calf stretch. Face a wall from three feet
away. Put your hands against the wall to stabilize yourself.
Let's start by stretching the left foot and leg. Put your right foot
forward and put most of your weight on that foot. Keep the heel of the
left foot flat against the ground, and keep your knee straight. Lean
forward far enough to feel a vague pull (never pain) in the meat of the calf
muscle. You shouldn't feel the stretch behind your knee or in your
Achilles tendon. If you feel no vague sense of gentle tension, move
the left foot back a bit farther from the wall. Hold the stretch for 1
to 1 1/2 minutes, a time frame that provides the most effective
stretches. Repeat the process on the opposite foot, then do this again
for each foot.
The hamstring stretch. Sit
on the ground with your right leg forward, with your left foot tucked
towards your body. Keep your right knee straight, then lean forward until
the muscles are tight. Again, you should feel a vague pull--never pain-- in
the meat of the hamstring muscles. Hold for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, then
repeat for the other leg.
The 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 1 to 1 1/2
Other stretches may be recommended as
There area myriad of shoe choices available
these days, one for virtually every activity you can think of.
Shoes come in different shapes, sizes and widths. While much of
shoe buying is determined by expensive marketing campaigns, proper shoe choice
should be determined by the patient's weight, foot structure, activity
level, and by any biomechanical or structural abnormalities.
Consider whether an orthotic device will be placed in your shoe, and
your foot type. (Are you high-arched or flat footed? Do you
run on the balls of the foot, or on the side of the foot.
Good shoes are designed to provide cushioning,
shock absorption and mechanical control. It should bend at
the ball of the foot (where your foot bends), but not in the arch.
In order to make sure your shoes aren't too
tight, sear thick socks when trying shoes on, and go shoe shopping in
the afternoon, when the feet are slightly swollen.
Make sure you begin your exercise routine
gradually. Begin slowly, then progress slowly towards a rigorous regimen
in order to prevent muscle strain and other, more serious injuries. It
will likely take at least 3 or 4 months to get in the proper shape, longer for
older, less fit patients.
It's generally a good idea to conduct a vigorous
exercise program about 4 days per week, giving your muscles time to rest and
repair themselves. As time progresses, you'll be able to do more and
more. Don't be frustrated with the pace of training. It's best not
to rush your training schedule.
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
to Deal with Aches and Pains
Even when you train properly,
you're certain to have some aches and pains along the way. That's
to be expected. When you're stiff and sore, take an easy
day. If the discomfort resolves, increase your activities
gradually. If the discomfort does not get better, or if it
worsens, stop the activity and see your podiatrist. Most injuries
are much easier to treat if they're addressed early.
Common injuries with training are
splints (pain in the lower leg), knee pain and
low back pain. While this website cannot diagnose or suggest cures
for your discomforts, feel free to look through our web pages on those
subjects to give you an idea of some of the more common causes of those
Any abnormal biomechanics (improper function), will
tend to cause the types of injuries mentioned above. In those cases, your
injury may not be a one-time-only complaint. Rather, your body may have a
chronic predisposition to develop problems because of improper structure,
function, or imbalance. In this case, it's most effective to try to deal
with the cause of the complaint by being treated with specialized types of
braces and appliances. The most common of these are
(custom-made shoe inserts), though other devices may also be
See a sports-minded podiatrist to help with these
conditions, preferably one
by the American Board of Podiatric Orthopedics
and Primary Podiatric Medicine.