Walking is the cheapest, easiest and safest type of exercise; however, this is highly dependent on the surfaces, type of footwear, and what’s happening with your body. These factors can cause harm in the present, or future, so take notice. Experiencing a foot or leg pain is not normal, it generally starts as a simple pain that you can ignore, and can progress into a chronic problem.
Many people walk all year long for exercise, while some persons start walking as a result of a New Year resolution, or with a specific goal in mind. This specific goal could be Carnival, and it is an intense period of walking, after no real breaking-in to the process. Equally important is footwear; many persons are unaware that footwear is a crucial element in this process.
Often, walkers are wobbling around 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, there are things that you must bear in mind. Warming up and down, is critical for any type of exercise as it stretches the muscles.
Common Problems that Can Affect Exercising
–Plantar fasciitis – Feels like tenderness on your heel or bottom of foot. 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, as there’s very little give as the foot lands. 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 build-up of calcium, which may create a painful, bony growth around the heel known as a heel spur. At the first sign of stiffness in the bottom of your foot, loosen up the tissue by doing stretches as guided by your podiatrist or physiotherapist.
To reduce pain, wear supportive shoes or sandals with a contoured foot bed 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. Orthotics can help absorb some of the impact of walking, 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, uphill and uneven ground that might cause too much flexing at the arch. If your plantar fasciitis worsens, visit your podiatrist to explore other treatment options.
– Achilles tendonitis – Feels like pain in the back of your heel and lower calf.The Achilles tendon, which connects your calf muscle to your heel, can be irritated by walking too much, especially if you don’t warm up. Repeated flexing of the foot when walking up and down steep hills or on uneven terrain can also strain the tendon, triggering lower leg pain.
Avoid walking uphill because this increases the stretch on the tendon, irritating it and making it weaker. Regular calf stretches may help prevent Achilles tendinitis. In severe cases, limit or stop walking and place cold packs on the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes, up to 3 to 4 times a day, to reduce inflammation and pain. When you return to walking, stick to flat surfaces to keep your foot in a neutral position, and gradually increase your distance and intensity.
– Shin splints – Feel like stiffness or soreness in your shins. They have to bear up to 6 times your weight while you exercise, so foot-pounding activities like walking and running can cause problems for the muscles and surrounding tissues, and create inflammation. The strain and leg pain results from strong calves pulling repeatedly on weaker muscles near the shin. Walkers who walk too much too soon, or too fast too soon, or who go up a lot of hills are susceptible to this injury because the foot has to flex more with each step, which overworks the shin muscles. Spending too many hours walking on concrete can also lead to this sort of inflammation. Severe or pinpointed pain in the shin could also be a stress fracture of the tibia.
Cut back on walking for 3 to 8 weeks to give the tissues time to heal. If it hurts to walk, avoid it. You might need anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, or cold packs to reduce swelling, and relieve pain. In the meantime, keep in shape by cross-training with low-impact exercises such as swimming or cycling. You should also strengthen the muscles in the front of the lower leg to help prevent a recurrence. Liaise with your podiatrist or physiotherapist to get exercises to improve your condition. If your shins start to feel sore, rest for a day or two, and when you exercise again, take it even more slowly.
Since many factors can contribute to your issues, take a holistic look at your lifestyle and activities, to ascertain what is best suited for you. Naturally, it is best to seek the advice of the professional to get the best possible results.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!