In honor of Foot Health Month, we’ve asked members of the Vionic Innovation Lab to share their observations and expertise.
A practicing podiatrist and podiatric surgeon in the UK for more than 30 years, Trevor Prior specializes in sports injuries, biomechanics and gait analysis, orthoses, diabetic foot complications, and foot surgery—all topics he has lectured on nationally and internationally.
When people start to exercise or become more active, they often increase too quickly. This is understandable as we all have limited time. But while the body is very good at adapting to stress and becoming stronger, it needs to be allowed time. If you do too much during the adaptation periods, injuries can occur.
Here are my guidelines for getting started on a new exercise regimen:
— I generally advise people to start slowly and not increase their activity levels by no more than 30% over any two week period. This is obviously a loose guideline and will vary from person to person.
— Some of us designate our workout days in advance, given fluctuations in our daily schedules. But if you had planned exercise on a particular day but feel tired, stiff or just flat, it is sensible to either moderate that activity or do it on another day. Know your limits.
— The professional sportsmen and women that I’ve worked with are obviously well trained and very fit. However, they are performing at a high level and thus susceptible to injury. Muscle strains and tears are often preceded by a feeling of stiffness or tightness. Being aware of this developing can prevent a more significant injury. This advice can be applied to the recreational athlete, too.
— If you feel this sensation, ease off and allow the feeling to settle. If it persists, it may be sensible to rest or stop activity for that day. Remember, we all fatigue as we exercise, and this increases the risk of injury. That’s why many football injuries occur in the last ¼ of the first and second half of football matches.
What else can you do to reduce the risk of athletic injuries?
A very common problem we see is ill-fitting footwear. Indeed, in a study we performed, 90% of subjects and 90% of controls had ill-fitting shoes. This can predispose to a whole range of issues and should be a must check item for everyone.
A well-fitted athletic shoe should:
— Be 1cm longer than the longest toe
— Follow the natural shape of your foot, allowing room for the toes
— Have an adjustable strap or preferably lace to stop you sliding around
If the length is right but the rest of the shoe is too loose, look for another instead of trying a smaller size. Professional soccer players wear their boots 1-2 sizes too small so that they can feel the ball. This does cause problems but they take steps to minimize the risk, like protecting the toes with padding and strapping. This is a risk they consider worth taking so that they can play to their potential but is generally not necessary for most of us.