April Daniels-Hussar, SELF magazine
Made it to the gym four times this week? Awesome! Your feet are killing you? Not so awesome. Working out might be a pain in the butt (literally), but it shouldn't be a pain in your foot.
"Foot pain in not normal," says Dr. Marlene Reid, podiatric physician and surgeon and spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association. According to Dr. Reid, any sustained or repetitive pain or discomfort is a reason to visit a podiatrist. There are many ways in which working out can wreak havoc on your feet. In honor of National Foot Health Awareness Month, here are some of the biggest:
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1. Wearing the wrong shoes
The biggest culprit, according to Dr. Reid, is wearing the wrong shoes for the sport you're doing. "You definitely want to wear a sport-specific shoe," she says, "because every sport has different requirements in the foot." For example, she says, tennis involves a lot of side-to-side motion, so tennis shoes provide support for that, while running shoes are made to propel you forward. Wearing a running shoe while playing tennis can lead to a sprained foot or ankle, while wearing a skater sneaker (like, say, Vans) while running can lead to issues like tendonitis or even stress fractures.
Check out SELF's 2012 Sneaker Awards here -- featuring the pair pictured above (great for long-distance running!)
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2. Wearing ill-fitting shoes
Wearing shoes that are too small or ill-fitting can exacerbate or cause blisters, bunions and ingrown toenails. "If you have a tendency for your toenails to curl in," says Dr. Reid, "a too-small shoe rubbing on your toe can aggravate an ingrown toenail and cause it to become inflamed"
3. Going barefoot
"I don't believe in barefoot running," says Dr. Reid -- but even if you're not running, unless you're doing yoga, she says it's important to wear supportive footwear during any workout activity. "Even if you're just working your upper body, you still want to wear a shoe that is supporting your foot," she says. For example, if you're lifting weights, you want your whole body to be balanced and the tendons in your feet to not be over-strained.
4. Over-stretching your toes in yoga
Repeatedly pointing and stretching your toes in a downward motion, says Dr. Reid, can be problematic for people who have Achilles tendon issues or heel pain.
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When it comes to taking care of your feet, says Dr. Reid, the most important thing is to know what type of foot you have -- and the only person who can really tell you that is a podiatric surgeon. She recommends making an appointment with one before you start a new exercise regime (like, say, training for your first half-marathon) to make sure your shoes are addressing the specific needs of your foot.
And remember, if something's hurting -- it shouldn't. "If you have a repetitive pain or discomfort, there's something going on," says Dr. Reid. It could have to do with your specific foot structure (you're not properly supporting your foot), or you might have a tear in a tendon or a stress fracture. Either way, a podiatrist can help you diagnose and properly address the issue -- whether with an over-the-counter insert, a new pair of appropriate sports shoes or even orthopedic shoes that will really give you the support you need so you can get back to kicking butt at the gym or on the trail!
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April Daniels-Hussar, SELF magazine