March Articles 2015

Barefoot Running

Barefoot running is becoming a popular running trend that has been permeating through the running and jogging communities. The act of running without shoes changes more about the motions of your stride than you may think, and choosing to run without shoes is not the only adjustment you will have to make.

Whenever you run normally, with shoes, your heel strikes the ground first as you land while you roll over the ball of your foot and push off with the front part and toes. Barefoot runners actually land on the front part of their feet and not their heels, shifting the impact from the back to the front of the foot. In order to do this safely and without much injury, runners need to reduce their stride to create softer landings.

One of barefoot running’s biggest advantages is the reduced risk of injury. Landing on the front of your foot with a reduced stride lessens the stress placed on the back of the foot, heels, and ankles. It also works out many muscles in the feet, ankles, and lower legs that you do not normally get to strengthen because of the different motion.  Your posture and balance are also improved with barefoot running, as is your sensory input from your feet to the rest of your body. Studies have shown that ironically, countries that have large populations of people who do not wear shoes every day are at lower risk for foot and ankle injuries and complications.

However, there is still some skepticism behind barefoot running because of some disadvantages it brings. One of these is the complete lack of protection for your feet while running. Bruises, scrapes, cuts, and even blisters can easily form when you have no protection from sharp or rough objects on the ground. Landing on the front of your feet can also cause Achilles tendonitis because of the overuse of the Achilles tendon.

Despite this, barefoot running can be made safe and enjoyable if you make a slow transition from your normal running routine into barefoot running. You cannot simply start the activity out of the blue one day, but instead gradually work your way from walking to jogging to running, increasing the distance each time. It is also recommended to start off on flat, even surfaces that do not contain sharp or dangerous objects because your feet are now unprotected. Minimalist running shoes are a great middle ground to start with because they combine the protection of shoes with the fit and feel of barefoot running.

Foot Health: The 4 Differences between Walking and Running Shoes

Both running and walking are great exercises, but should a person wear the same shoes for running and for walking? The answer is no, because there is a difference between the way that a person’s feet hit the ground when they are walking and when they are running. Therefore, the shoes for each activity are designed totally different. Before you begin any exercise program it is always recommended that you speak with your doctor.

Walking is a low impact exercise that is often recommended by doctors to their patients. Walking is the simplest exercise there is, but it still requires some degree of preparation. If you think about walking and how your feet strike the ground as you walk along, you will notice that your heel hits the ground first and then your foot continues to roll forward until your next step begins. Because of this rolling motion, walking shoes are designed to be more flexible than running shoes. The flexibility helps the walker to push off with each step taken.

Another thing about walking shoes is that your heel hits the ground first, therefore it absorbs most of the shock. This is why walking shoes need to have a beveled or angled heel. The angle of the heel helps to absorb some of the shock instead of putting all of the pressure on the ankles. This is especially important for speed walkers as their feet will hit the ground twice as often as the normal walker.

When people decide to run as a hobby or for their health, they must first realize that running is a high impact exercise that if not done with the proper equipment, could cause damage to their feet and legs. Running shoes are designed to be more light weight and to have thicker soles. The thicker soles act as shock absorbers for the rest of the body. For this reason alone it is never recommended that a person wear walking shoe to run in. However, it's fine if you want to walk in running shoes. Walking shoes most often do not have the proper arch support that runners do.

One very important thing to remember is that a proper fit can make or break a runner or a walker. If a runner or walker’s shoes are too big, their feet will slide back and forth inside the shoe and cause blisters. What ever your sport, running or walking, the right equipment can make all of the difference in the world.

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains can be quite the painful experience. Often times the injured person will experience limited mobility, swelling, and, depending on the severity, discoloration of the skin. This type of injury takes place when the ligaments are torn or stretched beyond their limits. Although this can occur in various areas of the body, the ankle is the most common site for a sprain.

There are multiple ways that the ankle can become injured like this. However, the simple act of walking may cause a sprain. If footing is lost or the person is walking on uneven terrain, local damage may occur. This may be especially so for athletes that continually push their limits, or for the person who has suffered from a previous accident involving the lower extremities.

In the majority of cases, medical attention is not required for a sprained ankle. Remedies for self-care at home include propping the ankle up, applying ice packs as needed, and remaining off your feet. Some may also find that wrapping with an ACE bandage and taking over-the-counter pain relievers are helpful. One of the most important things is to avoid further stress to the affected area.

Although rare, complications may arise and obtaining medical treatment may become necessary. A severe sprain can actually tear the ligament and even damage the muscle. When this occurs, the person may have to be off their feet for a prolonged period of time. Depending on the severity and nature of the damage, surgery and physical therapy may be required. Seeking out a podiatrist will help in making these decisions.

Sprained ankles are painful in nature, but those with severe unrelenting pain may have sustained a worse injury than previously though. If walking becomes too painful for the person to take more than a few steps, swelling becomes too severe, or if numbness or tingling is present, immediate medical attention should be sought. Mild to moderate bruising is common with a sprain but redness of the skin or worsening of the discoloration should not persist either.

One of the best treatments for an ankle sprain is to prevent it in the first place. Wearing appropriate shoes for the occasion, stretching before exercises and sports, and knowing your limits can aid in prevention. Those that have suffered from a previous sprain may want to consider additional support, such as a brace and regular exercises to strengthen the ankle.

Choosing the Right Running Shoe for Your Foot Type

While running seems like a simple activity, it is actually a complicated movement that puts a lot of stress on the joints, bones and ligaments of the body. Consequently, choosing the right shoe is an important step in increasing performance and decreasing injury risk. You should select running shoes based on your foot type. While other considerations are important, such as trail versus road shoes, your foot type dictates the amount of cushioning, stability and motion control you need. The best way to determine your foot type is to visit a local specialty running shop. Professionals there can measure your arch type, stride and gait and summarize your shoe needs for future reference.

Running shoe design is based on the idea of pronation. Pronation is the natural rolling of your ankle from outside to inside during foot strike. In other words, proper running mechanics involve striking the ground on the outside of your heel and rolling toward your big toe before pushing off again. Pronation is a good thing: it helps your lower extremities absorb shock and store energy. Neutral runners who pronate correctly do not depend on their shoes to correct their form. Neutral runners can select from a large variety of shoes, even minimal or barefoot models. However, runners with problematic foot arches or incorrect form may pronate too much or too little and require specific qualities from their running shoes.

Overpronators run with excessive ankle rolling. Even when standing, severe overpronators exhibit ankles that angle inward. They also tend to have flat feet or bowed legs. Overpronation can cause a plethora of injuries, especially in the knees, ankles and Achilles tendons. If you overpronate, you should select a shoe with extra stability and motion-control. Motion-control shoes are firm and straight; they do not curve at the tip. The lack of flexibility along the midsole prevents the foot from rolling too far inward during your foot strike.

Underpronation, also called supination, is less common than overpronation. Unlike overpronators, underpronators have inflexible feet and high arches. When they land, their feet are unable to roll inward. While this places less rotational stress on the ankles and knees, it prevents any kind of shock absorptions. This additional force can result in fractures, ligament tears and muscle strains as the legs compensate for the impact. Underpronators require shoes with increased cushioning and flexibility. If you underpronate, stability or motion-control shoes may compound the problem by further preventing pronation.

Getting the Right Shoe Size: How To Keep Your Feet Happy

Are your shoes the right size? Many people are walking around with ill-fitting shoes. Picking the right shoe size is not rocket science, but there are a few things to remember when selecting your next pair.

Most shoe stores and department stores have rulers for measuring your feet, and these can give you an exact size. Be sure to measure with your shoe on. Measuring your foot will give you a different size than your shoe. If you do measure your foot size, you will need to add 1-2 inches to get the proper sizing.

Wiggle room is the most important factor when selecting shoes. Make sure that your toes are not cramped and that you can wiggle them. A rule of thumb is that there should be one inch between your toes and the tip of your shoe. If your shoes are not properly sized, you can experience foot pain, knee pain, blisters and swelling.

Don’t assume that you will always wear the same size in a shoe. Often manufacturers size shoes differently. The size you wear with one company may not be the same as the size you wear with another. Make sure that the company you buy from has a return policy. No one needs a closet full of shoes which they cannot wear.

It is advisable not to buy your shoes in the morning, but rather late in the day. Your feet actually swell as the day goes on and you need plenty of room to walk comfortably. Buying shoes in the morning that are snug is sure to cause problems once the day is done. Also, make sure that you are buying the right sizes for both feet. It is not uncommon for one foot to be larger than the other, and some people have to buy two separate sizes to accommodate different sized feet.

The biggest concern in buying shoes is comfort. Oftentimes people will buy shoes that are not the most comfortable in the store. People think that the shoes simply need to be “broken in”. If a shoe does not fit in the store, it will not fit at home either. Comfort should be the ultimate goal when purchasing a pair of shoes; your feet will thank you.

Let’s face it; we all walk a lot, some of us more than others. Selecting the best shoes for your particular lifestyle is essential. By properly sizing your shoes and buying the proper comfort level, your feet will be dancing all day long.

Elderly and their Feet

While proper foot care is important for everybody, senior citizens have the tendency to be more susceptible to certain conditions and should therefore be well informed about problems that may arise and what they can do to properly avoid or treat them.

Some of the most common problems are foot ulcers, ingrown toenails, fallen arches, and fungal infection. A foot ulcer is an open sore on the foot and  can be a result of decreased sensation in the feet. An ingrown toenail is defined as when the nail grows into the side of the toe. Fallen arches are indicated by the instep of the foot collapsing. A fungal infection is a condition that results in deformed and discolored toenails.

In order to avoid these conditions it is recommended that the feet be inspected by the patient on a regular basis. If these inspections are carried out routinely, there is a good likelihood that problems can be identified before they become severe, or can even be avoided altogether. If any abnormality is discovered, it is important that the individual consult a doctor for diagnosis and information on treatment options.

Proper foot hygiene is also important. Making sure that you always have clean, dry socks on can be a major deterrent to many different problems including bacterial infections, foot odor, and certain types of fungus. Wet feet are a major cause of many of these problems.  If your socks get wet, it is important to change them. Walking around in wet socks may not only lead to various infections, but can irritate the skin and result in a number of various complications. Clean, dry feet are less likely to be affected by fungal and other infections.

As people age, the fat present on your feet begins to deteriorate. The protective nature of this fat keeps the feet healthy by providing a barrier and between your bones and the ground as well as giving the skin on the foot a certain amount of elasticity. This is one factor that causes elderly people to develop some serious foot issues. Foot moisturizers can be helpful to avoid certain problems associated with this. However, water-based moisturizers do not work as well for elderly people as they do for the young. Instead, it is more effective to use an emollient instead. An emollient is effective because it binds the water in the foot, keeping it from becoming absorbed too readily which will result in dry skin. They also have a special property called occlusion, which provides a layer of oil on the skin. This layer prevents the foot from drying up and can be very effective in treating dry skin disorders.  If you can keep the skin on your feet healthy, this will substantially reduce the number of foot problems you will encounter in old age.

Proper footwear is another way to keep feet healthy. Shoes that fit well and provide proper support help prevent ingrown toenails and fallen arches.

Certain medical conditions such as diabetes or poor blood circulation increase the risk for foot issues. For individuals with any of these conditions it is extremely important to conduct regular foot inspections to make sure that there are no sores or infections present.

Exercise for Your Feet

Whether your feet are over-worked or under-worked, chances are they could benefit from some special attention. Even those who exercise regularly probably do not spend any time strengthening their feet. This can be just as rewarding as strengthening the rest of the body, since the health of your feet affects the health of the rest of the body as well, especially the ankles, legs, and spine.

For those who might not have any idea on how a foot-specific exercise might be conducted, there are several workouts that are fairly easy to perform in the comfort of ones’ home. One of the easiest is the toe rise, also known as the tip-toe. This exercise involves standing on the tip-toes for a count of 15 then resting the feet on the ground. This process should be repeated a minimum of three times a day in order to strengthen the feet.

Toe pick-ups strengthen the feet by working them in a very different way. In this exercise, small items are picked up using the toes in order to strengthen the muscles on the upper part of the feet. Once again three sets should be performed, with the item in question being held for 15 seconds then dropped. Items that may be picked up using the feet include marbles and even stationery, which works wonders for the toes and the surrounding muscles.

Yet another simple workout is the ankle pump. This can be done either upwards or downwards, but for the workout to be most effective both can be incorporated into the routine. As the term suggests, this involves lifting the foot off the floor and flexing the toes either towards the shin or towards the ground. This movement puts the feet and ankles through a large range of motion which works muscles.

Last but not least, feet should be stretched so that the muscles can relax and recuperate. This can be done by placing both feet of the floor and bracing oneself against the wall at a 45 degree angle. This ensures that the feet and ankles are adequately stretched once the workout is complete.

In short, giving the feet a good workout every now and then is important in order to avoid problems such as plantar fasciitis, as well as to warm-up or cool-down after running or vigorous walking. Foot exercises may be followed by a good foot massage which encourages circulation in the feet as well as muscle relaxation.