Be smart to prevent injuries while increasing your activity this summer

The change in seasons and warmer weather rolling into Kansas City acts as a great motivator to get outside!  Become more active!  However, going from a fairly sedentary level of activity during the winter months to an active lifestyle during the warmer summer months can cause physical issues.  Whether you are starting a brand-new workout routine, or just finding the motivation to continue with your old one, injuries can occur. Even a minor foot injury can derail your workout plans for weeks at a time. Be smart to prevent injuries while increasing your activity this summer!  Here are some simple things you can do to try and prevent injuries.  Being injury-free will keep that motivation rising like the summer temperatures.

Runner with ankle sprainStart Slow

I always remind all of my patients, whether returning from injury or from surgery, to start slow. Frequently, surgical or injury recovery can take weeks. Just because you ran 5 miles a day last summer, or before your most recent injury or surgery, does not mean that your first day back you will be able to run the full 5 miles. Many patients feel that they need to make up for lost time and need to go 110% from the start. This mindset can put great strain on the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones of the feet. I always recommend a slow progression of increased activity.  A better idea would be to start with walking, instead of running 5 miles on that first day.  Then progress to a walk/run combo, and eventually, over several weeks, build up to sustained distance running. This slow progression significantly reduces your chance of soreness and serious injury to your feet and ankles.

Stretch, Stretch, Stretch, and more Stretching

Over time your feet can become tight and overworked. Stretching your legs and feet help to reduce tension to your muscles and tendons and help improve flexibility. A simple towel gather exercise will reduce cramping in your toes.  Using the stairs in your house or an elastic band can be used to stretch the calf muscles. Ankle stiffness can be remedied by spelling the alphabet with your ankle. Ensuring proper stretching and conditioning of the muscles and tendons helps absorb some of the shock customary with athletic activity.  In addition, the stretching will reduce the shock absorbed by the feet.

Use Appropriate Shoes

I cannot overemphasize the importance of good, activity-specific shoes. Many patients find their favorite pair of shoes and continuously use them from one workout season to the next. In reality, the average shoe lifespan is 400 miles. For the average runner that equates to 6 months. If you do a specific type of activity on a regular basis, such as basketball, running, tennis, cross fit, or golf, you should invest in an activity-specific shoe. A running shoe does not suffice for competing regularly in pickup basketball games.  Likewise, basketball shoes will not provide you with the appropriate support for playing tennis. Custom molded orthotics are another means to provide personalized support to help reduce your chance of injury. Orthotics are not a substitute for good, activity-specific footwear, but rather should be used in combination with good shoes to provide the ultimate support for you during your desired activities.

I always remind patients that pain is never normal. If your feet or ankles hurt during or after activities, this is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right. If you have already done the tips provided in this blog, and you continue to have a significant foot or ankle pain with activity, then this may be the signs of a more serious injury and you should be seen by a foot and ankle specialist as soon as possible. All the physicians at Kansas City Foot and Ankle are well trained in all aspects of foot and ankle injuries and are dedicated to get you back to normal as soon as possible.