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Why Stronger Feet Help Prevent Injuries

May 08, 2020

Many of our routines and schedules have changed drastically in a short period of time. Fortunately, we have our share of alternatives. If you exercise regularly, you already may have found a new way to stay active and healthy without regular access to gyms and physical trainers.

Many have significantly stepped up and added walking schedules. This is a good exercise. The more you walk, jog and run, the stronger your feet and legs become, lessening the risk of falling. Walking and running keep bones strong. If you fall but have strong bones, the risk of breaking them is greatly reduced.

Slow Your Roll

How can we avoid injury while also maintaining these new changes in our activity? Luckily, our bodies can adapt well to gradual increases in activity. The one thing to remember is the rate of change, such as how fast you are going or how much distance you’re covering. Allow yourself time to adjust. You can run a marathon but, without the right amount of training leading up to it, you may overdo it and end up with an overuse stress injury.

A few tips: 

  • Start out slowly and gradually build up to longer distances.

  • Wear a good shoe, with proper arch support and cushioning.

  • Stay away from wearing flip flops or other footwear with poor support.

  • Watch your weight. The more you gain, the greater the stress on your feet.

  • If you develop pain, rest or cross train (e.g., swim or bicycle) until your pain subsides.

Remember Your Cs & Ds

Minimize foot risk by working to prevent injury by keeping your bones strong. Ensure you consume enough dietary calcium. If you don’t drink milk, consider taking a calcium supplement, between 1200 to 1500 mg of calcium daily from all sources. Also important: Don’t neglect vitamin D. Too little of it can lead to weaker bones. We’re often told to avoid the sun to reduce the risk of skin cancer. We stay indoors and tend to cover up when outdoors, but limited time in the sun can be beneficial. Your skin only needs 15 minutes of sun exposure a day to produce the daily vitamin D it needs.

While there are many injuries you can encounter, the most common is a strain to the soft tissue or bone. The Achilles tendon is frequently strained, especially by those walking up and down hills. Additionally, tendons on the insides and outsides of your feet can be strained when walking or running on uneven terrain. 

When your bones are overstressed, a stress reaction (or microtrauma injury) may result, which can eventually lead to a stress fracture. Overuse stress injuries can involve any of the 26 bones in your foot and often are associated with pain and swelling. If that happens, consider either resting or cross training until those symptoms lessen. 

Increasing Your Foot Strength 

Where the lower half of your body is concerned, the muscles you use to walk are either intrinsic (in your foot) or extrinsic (in your leg). You can do exercises to make your feet stronger, such as curling your toes and trying to lift marbles or a washcloth. Your leg muscles can be strengthened by working the foot and ankle using an elastic exercise band.

In general, just using your feet for walking and running helps strengthen them because you are working against your total body weight. Most active individuals probably don’t need specific strengthening for their feet, instead, for them, flexibility exercises (such as Achilles stretching) are usually more important.

Feet are beautifully adapted to allow us to do a wide variety of activities. Staying off the couch — by biking, swimming, running or walking — will go a long way to keeping you healthy.

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