Running is great exercise. It offers numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, stronger muscles, and increased stamina — but as a runner, it's important to take care of your feet.
If you’re new to running, learning how to keep your feet healthy and injury-free is essential. The good news is that you don’t have to guess how to do it. Lisa Burson, DPM, and Joe Aoun, DPM, specialize in sports medicine at The Foot & Ankle Specialists.
Here are some of our best tips for taking care of your feet when you're hitting the pavement.
Start slow and increase gradually
Finding a new activity you enjoy is exciting, and it's tempting to push yourself too hard when you first start running. You should know, however, that doing too much too soon can lead to injuries such as plantar fasciitis or stress fractures.
Instead, start with shorter distances and slower paces. Incrementally increase both the intensity and duration of your workouts over time. Your body needs time to adapt to the demands of running, and taking it slow at first helps you avoid unnecessary foot strain.
Warm up and stretch
Before you start your runs, take time to warm up and stretch. Start with a light jog or brisk walk to get your blood flowing, then stretch your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. These stretches will help loosen up your muscles and reduce your risk of injury.
Pay attention to your form
Proper form is essential to prevent injuries and keep your feet healthy while you’re running. Keep your body upright, and make sure to land on the middle of your foot rather than your heel with each step. Keep your feet close to the ground, and avoid taking overly long strides. Taking steps that are too big can put extra strain on your feet and increase your risk of injury.
Invest in quality running shoes
Along with good form, good shoes can also help you avoid running injuries. The right shoes will provide support and cushioning to your feet, reducing the impact of each step and preventing injury.
Look for shoes that are designed specifically for running and that fit well, providing ample room for your toes to move freely. If you aren’t sure where to start, go to a running store to get fitted or talk to our doctors to get running shoe recommendations.
Don’t overlook cross training
Running is a high-impact exercise, and that means it can be tough on your feet and the rest of your body. To reduce your risk of injury, it's important to cross-train and incorporate other forms of exercise into your routine. Swimming, cycling, and yoga are all excellent low-impact exercises that can help to strengthen your feet.
Take care of your feet after runs
After your workouts, don’t skip cool downs. Remove your running shoes and socks to let your feet breathe. Then, stretch your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps to help alleviate any soreness or tightness. Finally, use a foam roller or massage ball to roll out any knots or tension in your feet.
Listen to your body
Finally, it's important to listen to your body and pay attention to any signs of pain. If you experience any discomfort while running, stop immediately and rest.
Choosing to ignore the pain and simply pushing through it can lead to additional injury and potentially prolonging your recovery time. Instead, make a podiatrist appointment to find out what’s causing your pain and get a treatment plan that gets you back to running as quickly as possible.
If you’re new to running, now is the time to start taking care of your feet. Book a sports medicine appointment at The Foot & Ankle Specialists in Bay City, Caro, or Lapeer, Michigan, to get started today.