While you might want to tone your abs, glutes and triceps in the New Year, there’s one often-overlooked area of the body that deserves your attention: Your feet.
“A lot of people hit the gym or dust off their home exercise equipment in January,” said Danielle Butto, a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon and a Fellow Member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. “But without proper precautions, a new exercise routine can cause foot and ankle injuries that could sideline you just as you’re hitting your stride.”
According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, here’s what to know:
• Don’t play through the pain of an ankle sprain. Avoiding treatment can not only cause further damage to the ligaments that might take much longer to heal or possibly require surgery, but you also might be overlooking a more serious injury — a stress fracture.
• A stress fracture might feel like an ankle sprain at first, but you’ll notice additional warning signs, such as swelling without bruising, and pain even during normal activities or when touching the area. If you have these symptoms, have your foot and ankle evaluated.
• Pain or swelling around your Achilles tendon after a workout could be indications of Achilles tendonitis. Untreated, a stretched or strained Achilles tendon could worsen in time, leading to stiffness and fatigue in your injured leg. Untreated Achilles tendonitis also could result in a ruptured tendon requiring surgery and a rehabilitation of months.
• Heel pain that lasts for more than a day or two, or worsens when you stand after sitting for an extended amount of time, might be plantar fasciitis. This condition is a result of inflammation of the tissue extending from your heel to your toes. If caught early, your foot and ankle surgeon can recommend at-home conditioning. In late stages, plantar fasciitis is harder to treat and takes longer to resolve.
Many injuries are preventable. Foot and ankle surgeons offer five tips to help you keep your feet and ankles healthy:
1. Be smart. Consult a personal trainer to ensure you’re practicing good form, and to increase the duration and intensity of your workouts gradually and safely.
2. Stretch. Incorporate mobility and stretching into your fitness regimen, particularly before and after workouts.
3. Be footwear aware. Wear properly fitting athletic shoes that support the arch of the foot, provide heel cushioning and are designed for the exercise in which you’re engaged. These measures can help you avoid plantar fasciitis and neuromas. Wear cotton or nonslip socks to help prevent painful blisters, which can become infected and cause more serious issues, especially if you have diabetes.
4. Guard against bacteria. Sweaty shoes, public showers, exercise equipment and the pool deck are breeding grounds for fungus, viruses and bacteria. Wear water shoes in public areas and after workouts, and get your feet clean and dry quickly.
5. Book an appointment. Foot and ankle pain isn’t normal. It signals a problem that needs to be evaluated and treated by a specialist who fully understands this part of the body.