You finally come up with a consistent workout regimen that has you exercising regularly and feeling healthier inside and out. The only downside — your feet are screaming for help.
According to Dr. Daniel Wendt, a podiatrist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, there is a range of injuries commonly associated with frequent exercise, from blisters and calluses to more serious injuries like tendinitis, plantar fasciitis and stress fractures.
To help avoid problems from minor foot discomforts to repetitive stress injuries, Dr. Wendt suggests these three rules for starting any exercise routine:
Proper stretching and warm-ups
Even something as simple as a runner’s stretch before, during and after all exercises can make a big difference in the pressure put on your feet. “Stretching the calf muscle for 20 to 30 seconds at a time with both the knee straight and bent is recommended,” says Dr. Wendt.
If you have suffered a previous injury, then cross-training is important. This involves non-weight-bearing exercises such as upper-body weights, core exercises such as Pilates, stretch work such as yoga, and cycling for aerobic activity. “Cycling is only 30 percent weight bearing and not considered destructive to most repetitive stress injuries of the feet,” says Dr. Wendt.
Proper exercise footwear
Looking for deals on fitness classes or workout clothes is one thing, but don’t skimp on the budget for your footwear. “You should always maintain proper shoe gear, which is supportive, well-fitting and in good repair,” says Dr. Wendt. “It is generally recommended running shoes be replaced every 300 miles.” The minimalist style that is popular right now should be avoided for serious exercise in favor of more supportive shoe gear — also called maximalist footwear.
Proper everyday footwear
While heels for women and dress shoes for men are customary during work hours, it’s important to have good foot support throughout the day. “Consider supportive sandals to wear at home instead of going barefoot, and using insoles in any other shoes you may wear for fashion purposes,” suggests Dr. Wendt.
Unfortunately, even if you follow these tips, you may still experience foot discomfort. Here are some small ways to “treat your feet” that can help keep larger problems at bay.
- Shave down corns — Decrease the thickness of corns and calluses by using a pumice stone, getting a manicure or seeing a podiatrist to help reduce the chance of blistering or ulceration.
- Soften calluses — Callus softeners such as heel cream with concomitant use of a pumice stone can help reduce the thickness of calluses and smooth and soften skin around the heel.
- Use foot baths — Give your feet some love after a particularly grueling exercise by soaking them in warm water with a mild soap. Not too much love, though; frequent soaking dries the skin.
- Moisturize feet before bed — Moisturizing your feet at night allows the lotion time to absorb and dry before putting your feet into shoes. Placing moist feet into your shoes can cause more friction and irritation.
- Leave blisters alone — If you have a blister, do not try to pop it prematurely. Let it heal or break and drain on its own, but keep the area clean and bandaged if the skin breaks.