The sun has returned and stay at home orders are easing. That means many of us are finally able to get outside again to exercise and play. If you haven’t been active for a few months, you may find that foot or ankle pain is standing in the way of your goals to be active.
You are not alone. Many people experience similar pain as they begin new exercise routines, increase intensity of their routine, or extend the duration of training. Often, you just need to rest for a few days and then start more slowly. However, sometimes pain is a sign of more serious problems.
Here are some painful problems I see in my practice as a podiatrist, how to prevent them, and when to seek professional help.
A misstep on the stairs or stepping off the curb can easily cause damage to ankle bone and ligaments. Sprains occur when the foot or ankle is twisted past its normal range of motion, injuring the supportive ligaments around the ankle bones. You may also have a fracture, when the bone breaks instead of or in addition to the sprain.
What to do: Immediately following a sprain you should rest, ice, wrap it lightly with an ace bandage, and elevate the area. Make an appointment with a podiatrist to check for fractures. In some cases, surgery is necessary to repair damage to ligaments or bones.
Prevention: Ankle injuries can happen to anyone, but you can reduce your risk by wearing well-fitting shoes, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising daily.
Increasing your physical activity will place more stress on the bones of your feet. This can cause small fractures, or cracks, in your bones. Pain, swelling, and bruising are all signs of stress fractures.
What to do: Stop the activity until the symptoms subside. Then start up again slowly. Without rest, you could cause a complete fracture of the bone. Call your local podiatrist for an evaluation if rest does not resolve the problem.
Prevention: Wear supportive shoes while exercising and after exercising. This may mean that it’s time to replace those old worn out shoes. Over time the cushioning and supportive materials in your shoes with break down. The typical lifespan of a good pair of running shoes is 300-500 miles.
When starting a new routine, gradually increase your mileage, duration, and intensity of exercise by less than 10 percent per week. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon and you are currently running 10 miles per week, the following week you should only run 11 miles.
Heel pain is commonly due to injury or inflammation of a ligament in your foot called the plantar fascia ligament. When this ligament becomes inflamed it is called plantar fasciitis. The pain is usually on the bottom of your heel and is most intense during the first few steps in the morning or when standing after sitting later in the day.
What to do: With heel pain, early treatment is always best. Start by stretching the foot, wear supportive shoes, and avoid walking barefoot. If the pain persists, it is time to see a podiatrist. In some cases, if left untreated, the pain may become persistent and last throughout the entire day.
Prevention: Take time to stretch your legs before going on a walk, hike, bike ride, or run. Wear supportive shoes to support your ligaments and prevent injury. Avoid walking barefoot.
Foot or ankle pain can derail our best intentions for being active. Please seek help from a medical professional if pain is keeping you from living a full and active lifestyle.