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Preventing Foot Injuries When Running: 7 Tips for Healthy Feet

Cameron L. Phipps, DPM, is a podiatrist at the Catoctin Foot and Ankle Center in Purcellville, Va. He is board-qualified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and specializes in surgical reconstruction, wound care and sports injuries.

 

With summer weather in full swing, it’s a perfect time to take your exercise routine outdoors. Running is a great way to stay fit — but as with any sport, it comes with a risk of injury.

Some of the most common running-related foot injuries include:

  • Plantar fasciitis. This injury is the most common cause of heel pain. It occurs when the ligaments (which connect bone to bone) and other tissues on the bottom of the foot become irritated and inflamed.
  • Tendonitis. This occurs when tendons (the tissues that connect muscle to bone) become inflamed. Tendonitis commonly causes pain in the foot and in the ankle.
  • Stress fractures. These are tiny cracks in the bone. They occur when muscles are overused and fatigued and are unable to absorb shocks during physical activity.

Many runners experience these injuries in their feet and ankles. But running doesn’t have to leave you limping. If you’re starting a running routine, these tips will help you avoid foot pain and injury.

  1. Ease in. Many of the running injuries I see are in former runners who jump back into the routine after a break of months or years. Whether you’re brand-new to running or returning after a long break, plan to start slow. Don’t expect to run 5 miles off the bat, even if you’re in great shape. Start slow and gradually increase your distance.
  2. Get a good warmup. Spend 10 minutes gently warming up your muscles before strenuous activity. Try jumping rope, pedaling on a stationary bike or taking a light jog before you go full speed.
  3. Stretch after the fact. After cooling down, spend 10 to 20 minutes doing some dynamic, whole-body stretches. Activities such as yoga and Pilates are also great for stretching muscles and preventing running injuries.
  4. Don’t stress over shoes. Running stores offer a dizzying array of options, advertising all types of fancy shoes geared toward the unique way your foot moves during a run. (You’ve probably heard terms like “pronation” and “supination” to describe a runner’s gait.) In my opinion, you don’t need high-tech shoes — and sometimes, those fancy shoes can do more harm than good. I recommend going back to basics. For distance running, look for a simple, sturdy shoe with good tread that will hold up over the miles.
  5. Cross train. Runners often feel like they have to run to get a “real” workout. But cross-training is great for overall health and conditioning, as well as for preventing injuries. Mix up running with other activities such as swimming, cycling, weight lifting or Pilates.
  6. Listen to your body. If something hurts, don’t ignore it. Use ice to treat the injury and temporarily switch to a lower-impact activity while you heal.
  7. See a doctor. It can take at least 4 weeks for a typical tendon injury or plantar fasciitis to heal. Stress fractures can take up to twice that long. If you’re still experiencing pain after taking it easy for a month or two, see a specialist. We can treat common foot injuries with anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and, in more serious cases, surgery.

Learn more or schedule an appointment with Dr. Cameron Phipps, DPM. To learn more about Inova Loudoun Hospital’s Joint Replacement and Orthopedic Surgery programs, contact Zai Begam-Bandell, Ortho/Spine Patient Care Navigator, at 703-858-6721.

 

 

 

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