Could Your Exercise Routine Be Putting Your Feet At Risk?

There’s no doubt that exercise is an essential aspect in maintaining one’s physical health. For some, exercise may mean going to the gym or for a run outside, while for others it may mean participating in a weekly softball league. Whatever the case may be, few of us consider the strain that these activities may have on our feet. 

“The human foot is a very complex mechanism,” says Dr. Yashraj A. Chauhan, who specializes in foot and ankle care and reconstructive surgery at Valley Bone & Joint Clinic. “They contain nearly one quarter of the body’s bones, as well as dozens of joints and tendons. It’s no wonder that the physical demands of many activities can increase the risk of certain foot-related injuries.” 

In this article you’ll find some of the more serious foot-related injuries associated with physical exercise, along with different ways to prevent them. With this knowledge and a little care, you can minimize the chances of an exercise-related injury happening to your feet.

Foot Sprains

If you regularly engage in any type of physical activity or exercise, it’s likely that you’ve experienced a sprained foot at one point or another. Sprains can typically be treated by simply icing, elevating and resting. However, when the pain fails to go away after an extended period of time, you may be experiencing a more serious issue. Lisfranc (midfoot) injuries, for instance, can happen during a wide variety of exercises, but they are most common among football and soccer players. All it takes is a simple twist and fall to severely damage the bones and ligaments that support the middle of the foot. If the damage is significant enough, surgery is needed to realign the joints and return the broken or fractured bones to their normal position.

Ruptured Achilles Tendon 

For many people in the working world, finding the time to exercise during the work week is difficult. In the fitness world, these people are often referred to as “weekend warriors.” While there is nothing wrong with getting the occasional workout in here and there, this sporadic exercise may put some at a greater risk of suffering from a ruptured achilles tendon.

It all begins with muscle fatigue. Your achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel bone, and running on a treadmill or using a stair climber for extended periods of time when your body isn’t used to it can put it at risk. Your muscles can become tighter and gradually increase the stress put on the achilles tendon until it becomes ruptured. 

“Depending on the severity of the rupture, this is an injury that will usually require a surgical procedure to correct,” says Dr. Chauhan. “In those cases, surgery is the better option because it results in a much lower rate of re-rupture compared to non-surgical treatments.” 

Nerve Damage

Running is a great form of exercise because it can be done virtually anywhere and requires very little in the way of equipment. When you run, your feet absorb nearly three times the force of your body weight. Did you know that participating in high-impact sports like basketball and tennis can put even more pressure on your feet and ankles? While there are many different injuries such as stress fractures, shin splits and ankle rolling that can result from this high rate of impact, nerve damage is also a possibility. When nerve damage occurs, increased pressure and stretching causes the outer sheath of the nerve to sever. This can happen as a result of running with bad posture or wearing unsupportive shoes. Surgery is often needed to rejoin the severed tissue if the damage is severe enough.

Preventive Measures

While some foot-related injuries are an unavoidable aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, they don’t need to be commonplace. Here are a few simple practices that can minimize your chances for a foot injury during exercise. First, wear the correct type of shoes for the exercise you plan to partake in. This is an easy step to take and is one of the best ways to prevent a foot-related injury. Not all sneakers are the same. For instance, running shoes are lightweight and feature specific cushioning to aid in shock absorption. Others, such as weight lifting-type shoes, feature flat bottoms and are aimed more toward stability. It’s also crucial to wear the correct size of shoe. Failing to do so can contribute to nerve damage. 

Stretching before you exercise is another beneficial practice that can prevent injury of all kinds. Calf stretches, toe spreads and calf drops are all great stretching techniques that can prepare the muscles in your feet for increased physical activity. 

Finally, cross training is a smart practice to get into for those who exercise on a regular basis. By alternating our activities, we reduce the repetitive stress to parts of the foot and allow for faster muscle recovery.  If you regularly go on long runs, switching to biking or swimming once in a while can do wonders for the well-being of your feet. 

Regardless of how you like to exercise, it’s important to always start off slowly when trying out something new. Jumping aggressively into a new exercise  when your body isn’t used to the motion will only put you at a greater risk for injury. 

What Should I Do If I Experience An Injury?

If you are experiencing chronic pain in your feet and think you might be suffering from a serious injury, speak to your doctor right away. They can refer you to a specialist like Dr. Yashraj A. Chauhan at Valley Bone & Joint Clinic. He has experience treating all types of foot injuries and has performed surgery on the most serious cases.