Prevent Foot Problems When Walking
By Christine Dobrowolski, DPM
Americans are on the go. According to an NSGA Survey, 71 million American adults are exercise walkers, making walking the top sport in the United States. Taking steps daily to improve health will help with America’s obesity epidemic. Sixty five percent of Americans are overweight, which is linked to diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and some types of cancer. Walking an extra 2000 steps a day is equivalent to walking a distance of 1 mile and to burning 100 calories. Burning an extra 100 calories a day is equivalent to losing about 10 pounds in a year.
The American Podiatric Medical Association teamed with Prevention Magazine to name the “12 Best Walking Cities in the U.S.” The cities were examined based on their crime rate, air quality, mass transit, historic sites, museums, parks and gyms. The top 12 cities were San Francisco, San Diego, Honolulu, Washington, DC, San Antonio, El Paso, St. Louis, Madison, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey.
National campaigns, health practitioners and even major corporations are encouraging Americans to walk more. Unfortunately, many sedentary individuals who start walking programs quickly develop foot problems. Almost sixty million Americans have foot problems and many develop them after beginning a new exercise routine. A foot injury can take weeks, even months to heal and many will gain more weight during this healing period. Preventing these problems through education will keep Americans walking.
- Buy a shoe made for walking. Make sure the shoe has enough stability and support. If you can fold the shoe in half, it is too flexible. Make sure the shoe has enough room at the toes and is fitted well at the heel.
- Start on flat surfaces. Do not start a walking program walking on hills or stairs.
- Start with a short distance. and stick with that distance for a week. If you are pain free and injury free, increase the distance the following week.
- Start with an easy pace. Increase your pace gradually.
- Choose soft surfaces. such as a track or a trail if possible. Cement can be a particularly hard surface to walk on.
- Limit your time on the treadmill. Treadmills can contribute to the development of foot problems. Start with the treadmill flat and at a slow pace. Slowly increase your pace each week. Increase the incline after you have reached a comfortable pace.
- Stop if you feel foot or ankle pain. Don’t try to walk through the pain.
- Examine your feet for areas of rub or irritation. the first few weeks of your walking program and then again after trying new shoes or socks. Moleskin can be placed on areas of irritation to help decrease friction. Do not use bandaids on these areas.
- Consider wearing orthotics. Individuals with flat feet may need inserts for their shoes. When buying inserts, look for sport othotics, as opposed to cushioned insoles. A more rigid insert will offer more support. Custom orthotics can be made by a podiatrist if necessary.
- Avoid cotton socks. Synthetic socks decrease friction, prevent excess rubbing and don’t absorb moisture. Your local running store or sports store should carry a variety of new high-tech socks for walking.
Consult your podiatrist if you start to develop pain when walking, or consider a visit before embarking on your new walking program.