You’ve hit the gym and are starting to get into shape but have you spared a thought for your feet? The impact of high intensity exercise combined with the feet getting hot and sweaty can take its toll. Some people may experience achy feet, blisters, bruised toe nails, calluses and even injury after periods of exercise. So what can you do to keep your feet in tip-top condition?
Choosing the right shoe
Selecting new trainers can be a challenge. With so many choices available but it can make all the difference to maintaining good foot health. Many good sports shops will look at your biomechanics which include how you move and how your feet fall. This will help you choose the right pair of trainers. Look for three things – good support, stability and cushioning. The shoes need to be solid but also flexible so that they move as you move. The heel should be strong and insoles well padded. Most importantly is that they feel right for you when you try them out. A good fit is vital. If they are too tight or have too much space allowing the foot to move, the toes will tap on the end of the shoe each time you take a step. This can lead to the common problem of bleeding under the toe nails making them look black. If this occurs it can be painful and may need to be treated by your GP to have the pressure relieved.
Shoe inserts can be used to provide greater support for the foot arches. Your body weight is spread symmetrically to help prevent common blisters, corns and calluses. Good arch support also helps prevent the tissues around the arch becoming inflamed which can lead to plantar fasciitis – pain that is felt around the heel or arch.
Socks matter too!
So you’ve found the perfect pair of trainers but did you know that socks play a big part in foot health too? They provide the cushion between your skin and shoe, preventing rubbing. However the wrong sock can actually cause friction leading to irritation and sometimes injury. Look for a sock with some cushioning in the sole but don’t wear socks that are too thick, too loose or too tight. Also look for socks that are made from microfiber to wick away moisture and prevent blisters, fungal infections and smelly feet!
Build up gently
A common cause of injury in the gym is doing too much too soon. Listen to your body, take it easy and build up gently. You may be keen to see results and want to push yourself to your limit but your body will suffer if you suddenly ramp up the workouts too quickly. Your feet bear the brunt of the pressure. This can lead to the problems of blisters, calluses, tendonitis (inflamed tendons) or even stress fractures (hairline fractures in the bone due to too much pressure).
Steps can be taken to strengthen your feet and help them do their best to support your body as you pursue your fitness goals. Yoga can be incredibly beneficial for the muscles and tendons around your feet with many teachers and practitioners including toe stretching in their sessions. If yoga isn’t part of your routine yet, you can still incorporate stretches and balances into your health regime. Take the time to warm up and cool down slowly every time you go to the gym. A simple exercise that can be done daily to increase strength is to clench the arches of your feet really tight, hold for 20 seconds, repeating 20 times on each foot.
Take action as soon as you notice any changes in your foot health to stop small problems becoming bigger issues. You can treat pain yourself with rest, ice and compression but make sure any problems are checked by your GP. For instant relief of sore feet, soak them in ice-cold water for up to 15 minutes. This will help to reduce heat and inflammation, preventing the development of long-term injuries.
If you develop blisters, don’t burst them but cover with a soft plaster or padded dressing. Wash your hands before touching a burst blister and allow fluid to drain if it has already burst. Avoid wearing the shoes that caused the blister again until it has healed.
Working out also provides the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive as your feet can get hot and sweaty and the microbes love the warm moisture. Make sure you wash your feet every day to avoid infections developing.
Most issues can be prevented or treated easily to stop longer term issues developing. If you do experience persistent problems make sure you see your GP for advice.