Your 10 Biggest Walking Pains, Solved

PHOTO BY ERIK ISAKSON:GETTY IMAGES

PHOTO BY ERIK ISAKSON:GETTY IMAGES

We all know that walking is the safest, easiest form of exercise, so why should you bother reading up on the risks?

Because left ignored, an innocent foot pain or leg pain can become a chronic problem. Each year, nearly 250,000 walkers are hobbled as a result of a walking-induced pain or a nagging old exercise injury that walking has aggravated. As bothersome as the initial problem can be, the real damage is what happens next. You stop exercising, misplace your motivation, and soon gain weight and lose muscle tone. To make sure a debilitating walking injury doesn’t prevent you from reaching your fitness and weight loss goals, we asked leading experts for advice on how to avoid aches and treat the 10 most common walking pains.

1. Plantar fasciitis
Feels like: Tenderness on your heel or bottom of foot

What it is: The plantar fascia is the band of tissue that runs from your heel bone to the ball of your foot. When this dual-purpose shock absorber and arch support is strained, small tears develop and the tissue stiffens as a protective response, causing foot pain. “Walkers can overwork the area when pounding the pavement, especially when you wear hard shoes on concrete, because there’s very little give as the foot lands,” says Teresa Schuemann, a physical therapist in Fort Collins, CO, and a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. Inflammation can also result from any abrupt change or increase in your normal walking routine. People with high arches or who walk on the insides of their feet (known as pronating) are particularly susceptible. You know you have plantar fasciitis if you feel pain in your heel or arch first thing in the morning, because the fascia stiffens during the night. If the problem is left untreated, it can cause a buildup of calcium, which may create a painful, bony growth around the heel known as a heel spur.

What to do about it: At the first sign of stiffness in the bottom of your foot, loosen up the tissue by doing this stretch: Sit with ankle of injured foot across opposite thigh. Pull toes toward shin with hand until you feel a stretch in arch. Run your opposite hand along sole of foot; you should feel a taut band of tissue. Do 10 stretches, holding each for 10 seconds. Then stand and massage your foot by rolling it on a golf ball or full water bottle.

To reduce pain, wear supportive shoes or sandals with a contoured footbed at all times. Choose walking shoes that are not too flexible in the middle. “They should be bendable at the ball but provide stiffness and support at the arch,” says Melinda Reiner, DPM, a podiatrist in Eugene, OR and former vice president of the American Association for Women Podiatrists. Off-the-shelf orthotic inserts (by Dr. Scholl’s or Vionic, for example) or a custom-made pair can help absorb some of the impact ofwalking, especially on hard surfaces. Until you can walk pain-free, stick to flat, stable, giving paths (such as a level dirt road) and avoid pavement, sand, and uneven ground that might cause too much flexing at the arch, says Phillip Ward, DPM, a podiatrist in Pinehurst, NC. If your plantar fasciitis worsens, ask a podiatrist to prescribe a night splint to stabilize your foot in a slightly flexed position, which will counteract tightening while you sleep.

To read about the other nine solutions click here.

If you are suffering from foot pain contact us today.

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