by Dr. Emily Splichal, DPM MS
With over 95% of New Year’s Resolution’s being fitness-related, walking is the top form of exercise chosen by Americans. This seemingly low impact exercise is not without stress to the body or risk of injury.
Not taking appropriate measures such as proper footwear, warming up, stretching, and proper recovery or rest after working out are all contributors to potential injury.
It is not a surprise that the most common site of injury during a walking fitness program is the feet. With 2,000 steps in every mile walked the repetitive impact to our body’s foundation can quickly add up to plantar fasciitis, stress fractures and Achilles tendinitis.
Here are a few simple tips on how to keep feet healthy both during a walking fitness program, but also happen to apply to day-to-day foot health.
Proper Walking Footwear
Although many people favor a more minimal shoe for running, walking footwear tends to be more cushioned and rocker based.
Extra cushion in the sole of the shoe can offset a walking heel toe gait pattern and excess impact forces on harder surfaces. In addition, a forefoot rocker is typically added to walking shoes as it assists in the push-off phase of walking and can reduce stress to the great toe joint.
Having said that if minimal shoes are preferred it is important to ensure that feet are kept strong through targeted foot exercises such as short foot. Or consider minimal footwear which has been shown to strengthen feet. In a recent blog we referenced some of our top choices of foot strengthening footwear.
Walking Arch Support
Depending on walking distance and foot type it may be beneficial to use an arch support in walking footwear. The advantage of an arch support, especially in people with flat feet, is that it can offset arch fatigue and plantar fascial stress.
The arches of the foot are support by many small muscles - muscles that are used with every step that we take. If these muscles are not strengthened, the overall foot support can weaken and lose stability.
One of top walking arch supports is PowerStep.
If a more functional approach is desired, then Naboso makes sensory insoles to keep feet strong and engaged when walking.
One of the most important aspects of any fitness program, including a walking program, is recovery. Taking 5 minutes after every walking session and releasing the feet and calves can go a long way to keeping feet out of pain.
In the below video we demonstrate how to release the bottom of the feet in a 5-point release series. The pinpoint pressure technique has demonstrated to give a more effective release than rolling the feet on a ball.
One last important point to remember is that pain is not a sign that the feet are getting stronger. “No pain no gain” is not appropriate as it relates to foot health or fitness programs.
If you find that you are experiencing foot pain, take a break from the walking fitness program and consult with your podiatrist if it persists.