Running is an excellent way to exercise and maintain cardiovascular health. In fact, it can be quite addicting!
However, running does place a lot of stress on the joints and tendons in your feet. Did you know that when you run, you land with three times your body weight? It’s true! From black toenails to heel pain, it’s no wonder why so many people suffer from foot problems due to their running.
But the good news is that these problems can often be prevented, if you know what you’re doing. Read on for strategies you can use to help to keep you safe while running pain free!
(Of course, seek the advice of a licensed medical professional prior to starting any workout program.)
When starting a running regimen, it is important to begin with low mileage and low intensity to avoid injuries. Your body needs time to adjust. If you increase the intensity or duration of your runs by more than 10% per week, you run the risk of injury.
Having proper running form is essential to prevent excessive stress on the joints of your feet, ankles, knees, and hips. The goal of proper form technique is to be efficient, covering more ground with less effort:
- Have a slight forward lean, allowing your momentum to carry you forward.
- Keep your chest and head up, without moving your head much from side to side.
- Drive your knees up but not forward.
- Your knees should end behind you, not in front of you.
- Bend your elbows 90 degrees, allowing your arms to assist with propelling you forward. Do not swing your arms across your body!
- Make sure you land on the ball of your foot and avoid striking with your heel. Otherwise, you run the risk of heel injury and plantar fasciitis. Striking with your heel will also slow you down and make you less efficient, wasting a lot of energy.
Shoe Gear Selection
Choosing the correct running shoes is critical to your success as a runner. Wearing improper shoes leads to problems such as overpronation, ankle sprains, knee pain, and exposes you to an array of overuse injuries. Some of the injuries may take months to heal and possibly require surgery!
Be sure to replace your shoes every 500 miles, or after 6 months of use, since old shoes place you at the highest risk of injury.
When you make an office visit with us, we will perform a comprehensive biomechanical evaluation and provide you with shoe gear recommendations for your foot type to keep your feet happy while you run.
Running Surface and Terrain
Are you someone who prefers running on pavement or trails? Hills or flat ground? Different types of running surfaces place different amounts of stress on your joints.
If you are running on a track or trail with a circuit pattern, it is best to change directions every lap or two. When you run on an indoor track, you turn in one direction and this makes one leg functionally shorter than the other, increasing risk of injury. You can compensate by changing directions for the next lap or mile to balance out.
The best running surfaces are grass or turf, assuming your ankles are stable. The worst surfaces are firm, such as sidewalks and asphalt, since there is not much shock absorption.
A balanced diet will increase your energy level and provide the nutrients to fuel your run. Nutrition plays a larger role as you start to build up your mileage and run longer distance and duration.
Vitamin and mineral supplements may be beneficial to include with, but never substituted for, meals. Talk to your doctor before starting any supplements to make ensure that it is safe for you.
Proper hydration is critically important with any running or any exercise regimen. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after the run to avoid dehydration and decreased performance. There are plenty of sports beverages and powders available that contain carbohydrates and electrolytes to fuel your run, too.
Appropriate warm up exercises are important to increase blood flow to your feet and can help prevent injury during athletic activity. Warm up may include low intensity walking, jogging, or cycling followed by light stretching of the muscles you are exercising.
After a vigorous run, spend 5-10 minutes walking or running at a low intensity to allow your heart rate to gradually return to normal. The cooldown period helps prevent dizziness and fainting after a workout.
Stretching is important after a workout and helps to keep you flexible. Muscles like to contract when exercised. You can help prevent conditions such as plantar fasciitis by remaining flexible.
Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, and do not bounce during the stretch. You should feel tightness but never pain during this exercise.
We typically recommend stretching as part of a treatment plan for certain foot problems, and will go over these exercises with you during your appointment.
Shoe Wear Patterns
You can tell a lot about someone’s feet by looking at the wear patterns on the soles of the shoes. If your shoes do not have much tread on the bottom, they are likely overdue for replacement! There may also be excessive wear to the outside of shoes at increased speeds.
It is surprising how many people wear shoes that place them at risk of injury. Just looking the tread wear can often tell us whether or not your shoes fit you properly in the first place and are appropriate for your running style and biomechanics.
We encourage you to bring your shoes with you to your appointment, so the doctor can look at the wear pattern and confirm whether or not your shoes are the correct type for you.
The way your foot functions is very different when you are running versus walking.
With walking, one foot is always on the ground. With running, there are moments in time when both feet are off of the ground simultaneously. The faster the runner, the longer the feet stay off the ground.
In addition, runners land with three times their body weight! With that much force, it is no wonder why so many people get injured. Your podiatrist will perform a biomechanical exam and may prescribe orthotics to help neutralize the forces that result in pain and injury.
Custom Molded Orthotics
Custom molded orthotics are braces that are placed inside shoes, in order to correct a biomechanical issue or accommodate a source of painful pressure.
There are several types of orthotics, but the best kind for runners are typically functional orthotics. These help align feet as best as possible to avoid overuse injuries commonly seen with running. Overpronation, or excessive flattening of the arch can be controlled with an orthotic and decrease the risk of arch collapse or pain.
Your podiatrist will likely take foot x-rays to evaluate your bony architecture and prescribe an orthotic device to assist with your needs. The good news is that orthotics can last many years, so call us now to improve your foot comfort and continue to enjoy running injury-free!