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Pounding the pavement? Tips for keeping your feet fit while running

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With the weather warming up and the Boston Marathon approaching, many runners are outdoors hitting the pavement. As you can imagine, running 26.2 miles puts a great deal of stress on your feet. Whether you are running a marathon or jogging for fitness, Dr. Kenneth Leavitt, Chief of Podiatry at NEBH, has a few tips to keep your feet healthy.

Wear proper footwear
Having improper footwear can lead to injuries and problems that can affect your performance. When selecting a running shoe, it is important to:

  • Pick shoes that provide cushioning and stability to your foot. This will provide good shock absorption.
  • Try on shoes at the end of the day when your foot is the largest due to swelling. There should be plenty of room in the front of the shoe (toe box), so that your toes are not cramped. 
  • Replace running shoes when the tread wears out or the heels wear down.
  • The most important aspect of any running shoe selection or even a regular walking shoe is that the heel must be at least one inch higher than the forefoot sole. Somewhere between 1 and 2 inches is mechanically the best. Running heel-toe in flat shoes is catastrophic for your feet and body.

Supplement your routine with cross training
Cross training can lead to a better performance as well as prevent injuries. Your feet are safer if you have proper posture and your muscles are united in working together to hit your stride. Mixing up your workout with a few activities including cycling, Zumba and yoga can decrease the wear and tear on your body as they work a variety of muscles. Exercises including yoga and Pilates help build core strength as well as flexibility and balance. Try high impact workouts such as swimming or cycling. These activities still provide the aerobic impact of running but you avoid the stress running puts on your feet.  Running is repetitive. Breaking up your routine with cross training can help you from becoming burnt out and motivate you for your next run.

Warm up and stretch properly to prevent injuries.
During a 10-mile run, your feet will hit the ground 15,000 times, at a force of three to four times your body weight. All this pressure can cause sensitive tissue in the feet to become irritated or inflamed, which can lead plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is designed to absorb the high stresses and strains we place on our feet. Too much pressure can damage or tear the tissues, which causes inflammation and results in heel pain and stiffness. Proper strengthening and stretching in the lower leg, Achilles tendon and calf is best way to avoid or treat plantar fasciitis.

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