By Brian K. Doerr, DPM, Fellow of the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons –
There’s no denying that regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can control your weight, reduce your risk of many unwanted ailments (cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and even some cancer to name a few), strengthen your bones, and improve your mental health, mood and ability to do daily activities.
With all of these benefits of regular physical activity comes that chance of being injured. Almost anyone who exercises on a regular basis will develop an ache, pain or foot injury at some time or another. If you’re not sure about becoming active or boosting your level of physical activity because you’re afraid of getting hurt, the good news is that there are things you can do to prevent injuries from occurring.
It is recommended that you consult a physician before beginning any fitness program to have a complete physical and foot exam. This is especially important for those who are overweight, smoke, or haven’t had a physical exam in a long time.
The American Podiatric Medical Association stresses the importance of foot care while you are physically active. People don’t realize the tremendous pressure that is put on their feet while exercising. For example, a 150-pound jogger puts more than 150 tons of impact on his feet when running three miles. Improper foot care during exercise is a contributing factor to some of the more than 300 foot ailments, according to the APMA. The following are common problems that can be prevented using proper foot care during exercise:
• Athlete’s foot;
• Corns and calluses; and
• Heel pain (including heel spurs).
An easy way to help prevent injures during physical activity, it is important to use proper gear and shoes. Shoes that don’t fit properly or provide adequate support, lack of stretching, and improper gait can lead to foot injuries or pain.
Many people underestimate the importance of keeping their toes physically fit. Toes take a lot of abuse from the hours we spend on our feet each day. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society recommends doing the following simple exercises to strengthen your toes and prevent foot discomfort and injuries.
Toe raise, toe point, toe curl: Hold each position for five seconds and repeat 10 times. This especially recommended for people with hammertoes or toe cramps.
Toe squeeze: Place a small, cylindrical object, such as a wine cork, between your toes and hold a squeeze for five seconds. Do this 10 times. Recommended for people with hammertoes and toe cramps.
Big toe pulls: Place a thick rubber band around the big toes and pull them away from each other and toward the small toes. Hold for five seconds and repeat 10 times. Recommended for people with bunions or toe cramps.
Toe pulls: Put a thick rubber band around all of your toes and spread them. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat 10 times. This is especially good for people with bunions, hammertoes or toe cramps
Golf ball roll: Roll a golf ball under the ball of your foot for two minutes. This is a great massage for the bottom of the foot and is recommended for people with plantar fasciitis, arch strain, or foot cramps.
Towel curls: Place a small towel on the floor and curl it toward you, using only your toes. You can increase the resistance by putting a weight on the end of the towel. Relax and repeat this exercise five times. Recommended for people with hammertoes, toe cramps, and pain in the ball of the foot.
Marble pick-up: Place 20 marbles on the floor. Pick up one marble at a time and put it in a small bowl. Do this exercise until you have picked up all 20 marbles. Recommended for people with pain in the ball of the foot, hammertoes, and toe cramps.
Sand walking: Take off your shoes and walk in the sand at the beach. This not only massages your feet, but also strengthens your toes and is good for general foot conditioning.
Your feet are one of the most overlooked body parts when it comes to exercise. As you exercise, pay attention to what your feet are telling you. If you have any questions or would like more information about preventing or overcoming foot and ankle injuries, please call the office of Dr. Brian Doerr at 239-931-3668. Don’t let an injury or the fear of getting hurt prevent you from staying physically active.