Running is as popular as ever these days. If you are a runner, you are keenly aware that your feet are the foundation of every stride you take. Whether you are running as part of a cardio workout to stay in shape, or you are training for the next 5K or marathon, foot pain and injuries are particularly common.
Common Running Injuries
Running is harder on the feet than any other physical activity. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, the average jogger’s foot hits the ground with two to three times the normal body weight.
After the knee, the foot and ankle are the most frequently injured body parts among runners. Common injuries include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures, shin splints, metatarsalgia (burning pain just beneath the toes), and Morton’s neuroma (pinched nerve between the metatarsal bones).
If you have calf, Achilles, or foot issues that came out of nowhere, your favorite running shoes may be to blame. It all depends on how the shoes are made, as putting your feet in shoes is similar to getting a cast for a fracture. Eventually, your tendons will become stiff and your muscles will shrink if your shoes don’t provide the proper support.
Our feet have the power to make running either a comfortable or miserable experience. Foot problems can also lead to pain and injury of the knees, hips, and lower back if you don’t take the proper precautions.
Here are some tips to care for your feet, so you can continue going the distance:
1. Find the Perfect Shoe
The saying “if the shoe fits” certainly applies here. Proper shoe selection is vital to foot health. Not just the shoe brand and model, but the actual fit. Shoes that don’t fit can cause major problems for your feet, including muscle spasms, numbness, blisters, bunions, and swelling.
More expensive shoes don’t always mean better support. In fact, evidence shows that runners who wear cheaper brand running shoes have fewer injuries than those wearing expensive trainers.
Many runners have recently been more in favor of the minimalist footwear approach, such as Nike Free and VibramFiveFingers. The goal of minimalist running shoes is to provide minimal interference with the natural movement of the foot.
Whichever type of shoe you choose be aware that many shoe stores carry only the most popular sizes. If you have especially large, small, narrow, or wide feet, your shoe choice may be limited.
Even if you do get the right fit, realize that shoes shrink over time, particularly if you get them wet often, either from excessive sweat or rain. While your shoes are shrinking, your feet are getting bigger and wider. Get your feet measured every time you buy shoes. If you require a shoe that’s anything out of the ordinary, you need to shop around. As always, your best bet is a specialty running store.
You ask when is it time to replace your running shoes? The answer is 300 to 500 miles. Why that range? How quickly a shoe wears depends on you. If you land hard on your heels with each stride, for example, you’re going to wear through shoes more quickly than more efficient runners. Go by how your feet feel. If after a normal run your legs feel as if the shoes aren’t providing you adequate protection, they probably aren’t.
2. Stretch and Warm-up
Before you head out for a run, it’s vitally important to spend a few minutes stretching first. Warming up before running will help reduce stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, and joints. A 10-minute warm-up is worth it, as it will prevent injuries.
3. Start Slow and Don’t Over Train
When you first begin a running routine, build up speed, distance, and endurance over time. Overtraining is a sure way to cause foot pain and injury.
4. Stop If You Feel Pain
Some people tend to ignore pain, hoping or believing that it will eventually go away. However, this is the worst thing you can do, as pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. So, stop and reassess, as continuing to run could turn minor foot pain into a major injury.
5. Run on the Right Surface
Running on different surfaces affects how you run and the difficulty level of your workout. Some runners prefer asphalt, concrete, or track, while others prefer off-road terrain such as grass or trails. So which surface is best for you? The answer is that it depends, and you should let your body tell you.
If you are prone to overuse injuries such as IT band pain or shin splints, you should run on softer surfaces. If you are relatively injury-free, it’s a good idea to vary your workouts to get the full benefit of each surface. Just like you should mix up your workouts and try new things, you should also mix up your running surfaces so your body can avoid overuse injuries.
For more tips on how to avoid foot injuries and find the right running shoe for your foot, call Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880. Our sports medicine physicians and foot and ankle specialists can help you get on the right track.