One in four women in the U.S. is affected by debilitating foot pain. This pain can lead to other issues with the body—including pain in the knees, hips and spine. Osteoarthritis of the hips and knees, for instance, has been linked to foot pain in earlier years. For women who run, foot pain can be detrimental to any training plan. However, there are some things that women can do to ensure that their feet are healthy and happy.
Foot Injury Prevention Tips
Katie Bowman, M.S., biomechanist and director of the Restorative Exercise Institute in Ventura, California, notes that many women don't exercise their feet, yet use them repeatedly with each step of their running or walking program. In her new book, Every Woman's Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Health Feet, Bowman outlines the importance of healthy and happy feet. For instance, she notes that foot injury prevention is imperative to ensure a healthy future for your joints and balance skills.
"It's important to train your feet, too" said Bowman. "Create a barefoot space in your home and stretch your toes, feet, ankles and calves each day. Additionally, take a look at finding a shoe that allows the foot to participate in your exercise program."
Shoes are important elements in any training program, whether you are running a 5K or a marathon. It's important to find one that has the right foot support. Bowman suggests that women runners pick shoes that have minimal heels, lots of space for the toes to stretch and a flexible sole. Because your feet tend to swell slightly during exercise, it is also wise to choose a shoe that is a half-size bigger.
While the minimalist running movement gains attention, it may not be the best solution for women who haven't focused on foot strength. Minimalist running may overload the foot muscles as they aren't prepared for less support.
"Taking feet that have been in nerve and muscle deadening shoes for years on the road for a run does not follow the basic laws of physiological science," continued Bowman. "You have to first spend time strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot, as well as stretching muscles in the calves and hamstrings that have shortened in response to years of using footwear."
Bowman notes that controlled and slow exercise will help build balance and strength in your feet. To strengthen your feet, try a standing or balancing yoga pose. Other exercises that help strengthen your feet include walking on a log or balance beam without shoes, or walking on your tiptoes.
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Brooklyn Running Examiner Lora Johnson is an avid runner, who has been running for the past 15 years.