LOVE ISN'T the only human experience that may make you wonder, "How can something so good hurt so bad?" You might find yourself asking that question after your morning run, afternoon power walk or other physical activity that demands a lot from your feet.
Physical activity like running, brisk walking and playing sports can be great for your body; exercise improves cardiovascular health, burns calories and builds muscle strength. Summer is a great time to stay - or get - active, but you still need to take precautions to ensure your exercise routine is also healthy for your feet.
"Let's face it - we all have a lot riding on our feet, and we demand a great deal from them, especially when we're engaging in strenuous exercise," says Dr. Kathleen Stone, president of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). "Foot health is a key component of overall health and well-being. Fortunately, it's not difficult to take the right steps toward protecting your feet when you run, jog, power walk or engage in other exercise."
First, be aware of common ailments of the season like athlete's foot, blisters, nail fungus, foot odor and warts, and the summer foot fixes that can help cure them. Next, take these steps to minimize the risk of injury or other problems when running or exercising:
Stretch before and after activity
Lactic acid is the chemical by-product of exercise that causes muscles to ache after a workout. Stretching improves your circulation and decreases the buildup of lactic acid; it can also help relieve stiffness and prevent strain. Simple stretches like flexing the hamstrings, stretching calves, Achilles tendons and shins can help ensure your workout is safe.
Choose an appropriate
The only real expense of running or walking is buying shoes, so it pays to invest in a good pair that will provide the support you need to have a safe, successful workout. If you're prone to swollen feet later in the day, try on athletic shoes in the afternoon, when your feet are most swollen, to ensure a proper fit. Shoes should be stable from side to side, well-cushioned but with enough room to wiggle your toes, and snug to the heel. You can find a list of healthy footwear that carries the APMA's Seal of Acceptance on the organization's website, www.APMA.org.
Be aware of the surface
The surface you're running on makes a difference in how hard the activity is on your feet. Hard, uneven ground can lead to stress fractures, or slips and falls. Softer ground is more foot-friendly and causes less shock than harder surfaces. If possible, run or walk on grass or dirt paths that are flat, even and well-manicured. Think twice about running in inclement weather. If your feet are wet and cold, the ground will feel harder and you'll be more prone to slip.
Listen to your feet
It's not normal to experience pain or changes in the feet and ankles. If you experience foot pain that lasts for more than a few days, see a podiatrist for evaluation. She can tell you if the pain is a minor, passing problem or a symptom of something more serious such as injury or disease.
Courtesy of ARAcontent