Exercising is one of the most effective ways to keep healthy and fit. It can even be a remedy for some disease conditions, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other common medical afflictions. Of course, exercise itself can also place great demands on your body, including the feet. In this article we examine some of the common injuries that are associated with exercise, and what you can do to prevent them.
- Stress Fractures
Our feet must constantly bear the weight of your body, compounded by the additional force or running, jumping and performing physical activity. If one has weak bones, or bones that haven’t been slowly conditioned to take this stress, a stress fracture may appear.
Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone. These cracks are caused by repetitive force and overuse such as in jumping, running, or carrying a heavy load over long distances. Underlying conditions like osteoporosis (loss of bone density) can lead to stress fractures. Stress fractures don’t usually constitute a medical emergency, but they are painful and will inhibit normal movement and activity until treated.
Moderate exercise is vital in preventing stress fractures, as overuse is a frequent trigger for stress fractures. For anyone planning to take on a new sport, or increase training load, the best approach is to make incremental increases slowly over time.
- Ankle Sprains
The ankle is a critical joint between the lower leg and foot, made up of bones and ligaments. During sports and exercise, it is possible to twist the ankle. This can happen during exercise when one lands awkwardly or takes a misjudged step. An ankle sprain usually occurs when the foot rolls outward and the ankle rolls inward thereby injuring the inner connecting ligaments of the ankle.
In addition to the initial pain, a sprained ankle will feel stiff and swollen.
Athletes are advised to wear the appropriate footwear, especially if the activity involves a lot of footwork and pivoting. Studies have shown that a habit of stretching, warmups and cool downs can also help increase ankle stability.
- Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar Fasciitis occurs when there is inflammation of the plantar fascia. The pain feels like a stabbing or dull pain in the arch or heel of the foot. In most cases, the pain is worse in the morning and gradually improves during the day.
Improper or inadequate stretching during exercise can lead to tight calves and hamstrings, a precursor to plantar fasciitis. Dancing, running or any activity that puts a lot of pressure on the heels can increase the risk of over stressing the plantar fascia.
Stretching is one of the most powerful ways to decrease the likelihood of developing plantar fasciitis. Calf stretches and foot rotations and extensions are generally recommended.
- Turf Toe
Turf Toe refers to the sprain of the ligaments around the big toe joint. One can develop turf toe during exercise when the toe is forcefully bent upwards beyond normal limits, as when an athlete is about to push off into a sprint.
Turf toe affects a wide range of athletes, from football and soccer players, to dancers and tennis players who make explosive movements in the course of practice or competition.
Wearing well-fitting and activity-appropriate footwear can help athletes of all types avoid turf toe.
Bunions are large, bony prominences formed on the joint at the base of the big toe. Bunions usually develop as a result of wearing tight shoes that place excessive pressure on the toes, though genetic factors can also play a role. Bunions can cause pain while potentially lead to arthritis. The good news is that bunions develop gradually, and it is possible to take action before the deformity requires surgery.
Preventing bunions is easier said than done, as it means selecting comfortable footwear and limiting the daily use of tight shoes like high heels.
All of these common exercise injuries are treated by podiatrist Gabriel Maislos, DPM, FACFAS and the staff of Houston Foot and Ankle Care. Just because they are common, doesn’t mean that you should accept living in pain. Call us at (713) 541-3199 to schedule an appointment for your foot and ankle needs. We accept most major forms of medical insurance.
Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:
- painful, swollen ankle
- toe pain or deformity
- inability to support weight on your feet