Exercise and Protecting Feet

It’s not groundbreaking news to know you need to be physically active (along with eating well and getting plenty of sleep) for optimal health. What you may not know or consider, however, are the effects exercise can have on your feet.

Now, those effects can be both positive and negative. On the positive front, exercise can improve circulation, help muscles absorb more oxygen and nutrients, and help you shed pounds – which obviously means less weight on your feet and ankles.

At the same time, activities like exercising and participating in sports increase your risk of lower limb injuries.Female runner stretching runner doing warm-up

This injury risk isn’t enough to keep you from being activity, however. On the contrary, leading a sedentary life can actually lead to even bigger problems (for your entire body). Further, foot and ankle sports injuries are often treated without needing surgical intervention.

We know it’s easy to hear about professional athletes who have season-ending injuries and require surgery to repair damaged tissues. This might lead you to believe that’s the case for most sports and exercise-related injuries. What you should keep in mind is the fact reporters don’t often find it newsworthy to report about athletes who benefit from conservative measures to control inflammation and/or use physical therapy to improve range of motion and joint function.

Of course, perhaps the best reason you shouldn’t let a certain degree of foot and ankle injury risk keep you from leading an active lifestyle is the simple fact there are measures you can take to lessen that risk, including:

  • Wear proper footwear. Your injury prevention plan starts with ensuring you are choosing activity-appropriate footwear that features robust arch support, ample cushioning under the heel, and a solid heel counter to promote correct biomechanics. This also means you need to wear your custom orthotics (if we’ve prescribed them for you).
  • Ease into activity. If you are excited to start your healthy journey to better health via exercise, it can be tempting to jump right in and give it everything you’ve got. The problem with this is the human body needs time to adjust to new activities and processes. A smart approach for becoming more active is to start at relatively lower levels of intensity and duration, and then build them up over time. One trick you might want to use that can help is to record your workouts. In doing so, you will be able to look at where you started and see how much progressive you’ve made! (This can help fuel your motivation to keep up the good work.)
  • Warm up and stretch. Before you head out for a run, engage in a workout session, or play a recreational sport, always take a little time to prepare your body by warming up and stretching first. A 5-10 minute period of brisk walking or light jogging followed by dynamic stretches will lower your injury risk.
  • Mind the playing surface or running track or trail. Uneven terrain can make it more likely for you to sustain a sprained ankle, which is already a high-risk kind of injury. You can negate the risk a bit by paying attention to the surface. Watch out for damaged areas in the field or exposed tree roots on your running trail. To help with this, try exercising or playing sports during the daytime or in well-lit areas.
  • Cross-train. Running is an exceptional exercise – one humans have been doing since the dawn of mankind. At the same time, it is an activity that does place tremendous force loads on your lower limbs. You can give your feet and ankles some much-needed reprieve by swapping out a couple of running sessions during the week for lower-impact exercises like cycling, swimming, yoga, and even walking (which is a vastly underrated form of exercise!).

Following these tips can protect your feet from common foot and ankle sports injuries, but don’t forget the importance of listening to your body and coming to see us before embarking upon a new fitness program. We can evaluate the current state of your lower limbs and identify potential concerns.

We hope you are able to stay safe when exercising or playing favorite sports, but we also know there’s no way to completely eliminate all injury risk when humans move our bodies. If you need treatment for a foot or ankle injury—or any kind of lower limb issue—contact our Bloomington office by calling ((812) 333-4422 and we will be happy to help.