Foot Fetish: How to Avoid Fitness-Ravaged Feet
If one day you’re shaking it in Zumba class, the next day clocking miles during a run, and another hurling tires at Cross-Fit, your body and mind may be thanking you for changing up your workouts, but your feet are most likely not. From blisters and ingrown toe=nails to chipped pedicures and the more serious plantar fasciitis, feet take a beating during physical activity. Here we examine the most common foot injuries and how to prevent them; plus, how to keep your feet looking and feeling their best.
Feet don’t fail me now. While most people who work out know the importance of warming up before exercise, many overlook stretching, which can lead to full=body muscle aches and foot-related injuries. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that more than 2 million people are treated each year for plantar fascitis, the most common foot injury that can sideline your sessions. “Plantar fasciitis is heel pain related to inflammation of a thick ligament at the bottom of the heel that occurs frequently in athletes and dancers,” says Sonu Ahluwalia, M.D., clinical chief of orthopedic surgery at Cedars Sinai Medical center and head of its sports medicine departments. The plantar Fascia is a long, thin ligament that runs the lengths of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes, and supporting the arch. It is designed to bear the weight and stress put on the feet, however, constant pressure and strains can cause the ligament to break down or rear, causing inflammation and pain. All of this pain can be avoided (and treated) with some simple stretching.
Mike Bell, fitness expert at Willspace in New York City, emphasizes that stretching and strengthening are necessary to avoid injuries. He suggests focusing on the calves because tight calf muscles can lead to plantar fasciitis. One exercise that Bell recommends for strengthening the muscles in the foot is the single-leg Romanian dead lift. He coaches his clients to do it barefoot because “there is much more demand on the foot muscles when we exercise barefoot.” To perform this foot-strengthening move, Bell instructs, “Stand and hold a bar with a pronated grip (hand palm down), at arm’s length while feet are shoulder-width apart. Bend at the knees while picking up the other leg behind you. Try to keep the leg off the floor for the entire set of reps. Making sure to keep the knee slightly bent, push the hips backward, looking up, shoulders back and lower back arched. Complete the set and then switch to the other leg.” Bell notes that these feet focused exercises can be performed daily or even as warm-up or cool-down before or after running or class. Bottom line: Stretch, people, stretch!