The feet bear a lot of stress from day to day. That’s why podiatrists recommend stretching as a great way to revitalize and strengthen the feet. Simple stretches can be performed at home as a part of your morning routine, or even at work while you’re sitting at your desk. Improving your flexibility through stretching can help prevent foot injuries, increase your mobility, improve performance and posture, and relieve stress.
When Should I Stretch?
It is especially important to stretch properly before starting any exercise routine. When muscles are warmed up prior to a workout, the strain on muscles, tendons and joints can be reduced and injuries avoided.
Simple stretches include flexing your feet repeatedly while pointing your toes to help build strength in the foot muscles or rotating your foot from side to side while you point your toes. Massaging the muscles in your feet with your hands is another helpful way to promote circulation and relaxation.
Always allow at least 5-10 minutes to fully stretch your muscles, which should include a stretch/hold/relax pattern, without any pulling or bouncing. Before beginning any new type of stretch, visit your podiatrist first to ensure it will be safe for your particular foot pain.
What Kind of Stretches Should I Do?
Here are just a few helpful stretches you can do at home to help lessen foot pain and improve foot health:
- Stretch for Calf Muscles: Excessive tightness of the calf muscle can cause many foot problems. To stretch this muscle, face a wall from approximately 2-3 feet away. Lean into the wall, keeping heels on the floor and knees extended. Hold for 10 seconds as the calf muscle stretches, then relax. Do not bounce. Repeat five times.
- Stretch for Hamstring: Put your foot with knee straight on a chair or table. Keep the other leg on the floor straight with knee locked. Lower your head toward the knee on the chair or table until the muscles are tight. Hold to a count of 10 then relax. Repeat five times, and then switch to the other leg.
- Stretch for Plantar Fascia: This stretch for heel pain can be performed in the seated position. Cross your affected foot over the knee of your other leg. Grasp the toes of your painful foot and slowly pull them toward you. The fascia should feel like a tight band along the bottom of your foot when stretched. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Repeat it 20 times for each foot. This exercise is most effective when you first wake up, before standing or walking.
- Stretching in combination with supportive footwear will help you keep your feet healthy and fit. Whether you’re gearing up to train for a marathon, or simply looking to revitalize your feet after a long day at work, talk to your podiatrist at about the best foot stretches for your individual needs.
Stress fractures are notoriously misdiagnosed and undertreated. In many cases, symptoms may persist for an extended period of time before the diagnosis of a stress fracture is even made. That’s because stress fractures don’t typically occur from an unforeseen trauma, as with a sprain, but rather from repetitive stress.
What Are Stress Fractures?
Stress fractures are tiny, hairline breaks in the bones. They can occur in any bone, but most often afflict the weight-bearing bones of the lower leg and foot. Athletes are especially susceptible to stress fractures, as this common injury is often a problem of overuse. It frequently results from overtraining and high impact sports, such as running, basketball and tennis. People with an abnormal foot structure or insufficient bone may also be more vulnerable to suffer a stress fracture.
What Are the Symptoms of Stress Fractures?
Pain is the primary symptom of a stress fracture. In the early stages, the pain may begin toward the end of an activity and resolve with rest. Untreated, the pain will eventually persistent with minimal activity.
The most common symptoms of stress fractures include:
- Pain with or following normal activity
- Pain at the site of the fracture
- Tenderness and swelling at a point on the bone
- Pain intensified with weight bearing
Rest, ice, compression, and elevation are recommended as an initial treatment plan for stress fractures. You should also minimize all weight-bearing activities until you have fully recovered. Other treatments may include immobilization of the foot, footwear modifications, orthotic devices and in some severe cases, surgery. Rest is the key to a full recovery, and returning too quickly to normal activity may result in more serious damage.
Overuse injuries and stress fractures aren’t completely unavoidable, but you can take extra care to help prevent stress fractures from occurring. Remember to increase any activity or training program slowly and gradually. Wear supportive footwear with good cushioning to help manage the forces placed on your feet and legs during high impact activities. If pain or swelling returns, stop the activity and rest for a few days.
Stress fractures come on gradually and may not present obvious symptoms at first, so it’s important to recognize the early warning signs to prevent further damage. If you suspect a stress fracture, contact our office right away for an evaluation. Proper diagnosis is essential to prevent further damage and improve recovery time, as stress fractures tend to get worse and may even lead to a complete break if not treated right away. A podiatrist will examine your foot or ankle, take an x-ray to determine if there is a break or crack in the bone, and recommend an appropriate treatment plan for optimal recovery.
The feet of children grow and change rapidly during their first year, reaching almost half their adult foot size. Most changes in children’s feet are a natural part of development, but others require attention and treatment from a professional. That’s why it’s important for parents to pay close attention to their child’s feet to ensure proper growth during every stage of development. A podiatrist provides expert care, diagnosis and treatment of ankle and foot disorders in children.
Here are some tips to help parents guide normal development for their child’s feet:
- For babies, avoid covering the feet too tightly, as this restricts movement and can delay normal development.
- If your child participates in sports, choose sport-specific shoes that fit his or her feet properly.
- Observe walking patterns. Does the child toe in or out; have bowlegs or knock-knees; limp or experience other gait abnormalities? These problems can be corrected if they are detected early.
- A child’s feet change rapidly, so check your child's shoe size often. Shoes should be supportive, well-cushioned and roomy.
- When applying sunscreen, remember to apply to the feet.
- Kids love the freedom of being shoeless, but walking barefoot may increase a child’s risk of infection, sprains or fractures.
Remember, your child doesn’t necessarily have to show signs of foot pain or discomfort for something to be abnormal. A child’s feet are very pliable and can be deformed without the child recognizing the warning signs. Carefully monitor your child’s feet. If you notice unusual symptoms, seek professional care immediately. Deformities will not be outgrown by themselves.
Your child will depend on his or her feet for the rest of their life to get them where they need to go. Whenever you have questions about your child's foot health, contact your trusted podiatrist. Any pain that lasts more than a few days, or that is severe enough to limit the child’s walking, should be evaluated by a professional.
Whether you’re training for your very first marathon or preparing for your 10th, it’s important to begin your training program on the right foot. A lack of experience coupled with the repetitive impact placed on the feet and ankles during a long run can produce enough stress to cause hairline fractures and other debilitating foot injuries.
Many foot problems seen in marathoners are caused by the repetitive pounding over the months of long-distance running. With some people, injury is triggered by the abnormal foot biomechanics, and in others it is because of poor training. During a 10-mile run, the feet make about 15,000 strikes, at a force of three to four times the body's weight. Even if you have perfect foot mechanics, injuries and pain are often unavoidable with this amount of stress.
To prevent injury during training, it’s important to pay close attention to your feet. When increasing mileage, avoid doing so too quickly. The increased forced can make your feet more susceptible to stress fractures.
Basic tips for training include:
- Follow a training schedule that is appropriate for your experience level
- Start easy and increase your mileage slowly
- Stretch and warm up properly to reduce strain on muscles, tendons and joints
- Choose appropriate footwear based on your foot structure, function, body type, running environment and training regimen
- Never ignore pain. If the pain gets worse with reduced exercise and rest, stop training and visit your podiatrist
Aside from stress fractures which often occur from overtraining, additional foot problems you may experience include:
- Toenail problems, including ingrown and fungus
- Heel pain, such as plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendon and calf pain
- Toe pain, such as bunions
- Shin splints
Before you start training, our practice recommends visiting a podiatrist for a complete evaluation of your lower extremities. Our office will examine your feet and identify potential problems, discuss training tactics, prescribe an orthotic device that fits into a running shoe (if needed) and recommend the best style of footwear for your feet to allow for injury free training all the way up to your race day. It is especially important to come in for an exam if you have already started training and are experiencing foot or ankle pain.
Training for a marathon is hard work. It takes time and dedication. At our practice, we offer special interest and expertise working with marathoners to ensure good foot health throughout your entire training program to help you achieve your goals.
The Achilles tendon is the strong band of tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. This lower leg tendon enables you to walk, jump, stand on your toes and climb stairs. You rely on it virtually every time you move your foot.
When the tendon is stretched beyond its normal capacity, a complete or partial tear may occur. Most Achilles tendon ruptures occur as a result of sport-related injuries when forceful jumping or sudden accelerations of running overstretch the tendon and cause a tear. Individuals with Achilles tendinitis -- weak and inflamed tendons -- are also more susceptible to tendon tears.
Signs of a torn Achilles tendon include:
- Sudden, sharp pain in the back of the ankle and lower leg
- Snapping or popping sensation at the time of the injury
- Swelling down the back side of the leg or near the heel
- Difficulty walking or rising up on the toes
The best treatment for a torn Achilles tendon is prevention. Avoiding this injury could save yourself months of rehab and extended time away from your game. Help prevent injury to your Achilles tendon by:
- stretching your calf muscles regularly
- limiting hill running and jumping activities that place excess stress on the Achilles tendons
- resting during exercise when you experience pain
- maintaining a healthy weight
- alternating high impact sports, such as running with low-impact sports, such as walking or biking
- wearing appropriate, supportive shoes with proper heel cushioning
If you suspect a ruptured Achilles tendon, visit our practice as soon as possible. Until you can seek professional care, avoid walking on the injured tendon and keep it elevated. Ice the affected area to reduce pain and swelling and, if possible, wrap the injured foot and ankle. For partial tears, swelling and pain may be less severe, but prompt treatment should still be administered.
Treatment for an Achilles tendon rupture can be surgical or non-surgical. Surgery to reattach the tendon is generally recommended, followed by rehabilitation, especially for individuals who want to return to recreational sports. Our pracitce can evaluate the severity of your tear and suggest the best treatment plan. With proper care, most people return to their former level of performance within six months.
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