When it comes to exercise, feet are one of the most neglected body parts.

Before beginning any fitness program consult your doctor. This includes a complete physical and foot exam. This is especially important for those who are overweight, smoke, or haven't had a physical exam in a long time.

It’s amazing the amount of tremendous pressure that is put on your feet while exercising. Just to give you an idea, a 150 lb jogger puts more than 150 tons of impact on his feet while running just three miles.

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, poor foot care during exercise contributes to more than 300 foot ailments.

Some of the most common ones are:

  • Athlete's foot
  • Blisters
  • Corns and calluses
  • Heel pain (including heel spurs)

Aerobics

Aerobic exercise keeps you hoppin’! One minute you’re jumping, the next it’s lunges, grapevine steps and who knows what. It’s great because it keeps all of your body in motion, building strength while also providing cardio. All that motion, however, can cause injuries. The most common ones involve the foot, ankle and lower leg. Improper shoes, surfaces, or routines, and straining muscles can lead to foot problems. Experts say hardwood floors, with padded mats, are the best surfaces during aerobic exercise. It’s important to stretch all the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the leg, ankle, foot, and toes in warm-up and cool-down periods before and after routines.

Aerobic Shoes

Shoes are crucial to successful, injury-free aerobics. Don’t throw on an old pair of sneakers and think you’re safe. Aerobic shoes need to provide substantial arch and side support; soles that allow for the twisting and turning of the routines without slipping or skidding and causing a sprain. Running shoes lack the necessary lateral stability. They lift the heel too high to support aerobic activity. They also often have a sharp outer flare that may create a greater risk of injury from the side-by-side motion in aerobics.

Look for shoes which provide sufficient cushioning and shock absorption to compensate for pressure on the foot many times greater than found in walking. They must also have good medial-lateral stability. Impact forces from aerobics can reach up to six times the force of gravity, which is transmitted to each of the 26 bones in the foot.

Due to the many side-to-side motions, aerobic shoes need an arch design that will compensate for these forces. Shoes with sufficiently thick upper leather or strap support to provide forefoot stability and prevent slippage of the foot and lateral shoe "breakup" are best. Also make sure shoes have a toe box that is high enough to prevent irritation of your toes and nails.

Finally, go shoe shopping in the afternoon or evening when your feet are slightly swollen and wear the same socks (preferably made of an acrylic blend) that you will wear during aerobics.

Baseball

Who doesn’t love a good game of baseball? Go Astros! As with other sports, its important to keep in good condition. That includes having the right equipment playing safely and enjoying the health benefits of the game. Baseball players are advised to condition their entire bodies. Be sure to stretch the leg, ankle, and foot muscles before, during, and after play to avoid injuries.

In baseball there are lots of stops and starts, lots of running, and, sliding. Practice and technique enhance your game; they are also crucial for building the muscles needed in baseball. The rapid, often shifting motions associated with the sport place many pressures on feet and ankles. Inadequate stretching, improper shoes, and repeated motions lead to the most common foot problems that occur among baseball players: Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, stress fractures, ankle sprains, and bone fractures.

Baseball Shoes and Cleats

Like most athletic shoes, comfort tops the list in choosing the right baseball shoe for you. They need a roomy toe box that give your toes enough room to wiggle. The widest part of your foot should fit comfortably into the shoe without feeling a squeeze across the top or sides. Look for a snug heel to help keep your foot stable. Most importantly, remember to replace your baseball shoes after 70 to 75 hours of active wear.

For league play, cleats may be recommended to give you the traction needed for the surface in the diamond. Baseball cleats come in a variety of materials ranging from leather and synthetic materials (plastics) to rubber and metal. Be sure to follow the regulations of your league regarding the material allowed; many leagues no longer permit the use of metal spikes or cleats, particularly on artificial turf. Be sure to give yourself time to adjust to cleats by wearing them on the designated surface.

Basketball

With all its running, twisting, turning, and jumping, basketball is one of the hardest games on feet. At one point or another, all the areas of the foot at risk. Proper conditioning, stretching, and well-fitted shoes are critical to healthy enjoyment of the sport.

Although ankle sprain is a particularly common injury in basketball, the repeated shock and pressure on the foot can also lead to inflammations including Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and sesamoiditis.

Basketball Shoes

The most important qualities for basketball shoes are: foot and ankle stability, shock absorption, and traction. To avoid ankle injuries or have had them in the past, consider a high-top or three-quarter shoe that provides added support to key foot structures during play. Look for shoes that offer the following:

  • A wide toe box with plenty of room for your toes to move around. Not enough room can lead to blisters, corns, and calluses.
  • Lightweight, breathable material for uppers; overall, leather is recommended.
  • Dense, abrasion-resistant soles that are low to the ground for better traction and support.
  • A well-cushioned mid-sole for a shock-absorbing layer. (An EVA or EVA-compressed layer is lightweight but not as durable or stable. A polyurethane layer has greater stability, but it is often heavier, too.)
  • Bend the shoe in the forefoot, which is at the ball of the foot near the toes. Be sure there is less bend in the arch where you need the added support to keep the foot stable.
  • A firm heel counter that fits snugly.
  • Actual shoelaces give you a customized fit and the ability to adjust for the support you need where it is or isn’t needed.

When shopping be sure to take the socks you plan to wear to ensure a proper fit. Have your feet measured standing up and fit the shoes to your larger foot. Walk around, turn, twist, and jump in each pair on a hard surface to see how your foot feels during each of these movements. Most importantly, make your choice based on comfort.

Cycling

You might be surprised at what a vital role feet, and shoe gear, play in cycling. They are responsible for transferring energy from the body to the pedals, thus making the bicycle move.

Maintaining the alignment between hips, knees, and feet is the best way to operate a bicycle. Poor body alignment and over activity are responsible for the most common foot problems related to biking including Achilles tendonitis, sesamoiditis, shin splints, and foot numbness or pain.

Cycling Shoes

For the casual or recreational cyclist, an average athletic shoe used for running, walking, or cross-training is fine for biking. Be sure the sole is firm and not worn down so it grips the pedal to avoid slipping.

For more serious cyclists, aside from their bicycles, appropriate shoes are the most important piece of equipment. Cycling shoes should generally have a stiff sole and fit snugly around the bridge of the foot and heel. The more stable and less motion inside the shoe, the more power can be transferred through the foot to the pedal.

Also watch for shoes with ventilated uppers to keep feet more comfortable. Closure systems vary, including laces, buckles, straps, and Velcro -- or a combination. You can decide what feels most comfortable for you. Be careful, however, that any loose ends (from straps, laces or buckles) don't hang over, since they can pose a safety hazard if you use toe clips on your pedals.

The type of biking you do can make a difference regarding your choice of shoes as well. For road cycling and racing, stiff soles, a narrow heel, and a snug fit are best. For mountain biking, the shoes also need a decent tread for a better grip and a more rugged sole.

Remember to take the socks you plan to wear with you when trying on cycling shoes to make sure the fit is right.

Golf

A large part of the attraction of golf is the time spent outdoors. During an 18-hole round of golf, the typical player walks four-to-five miles over the course of three-to-five hours. That's a lot of time spent on your feet. At the same time, the biomechanics of golf make your feet as important to the success of your swing as any other part of the body. Getting and keeping your feet in the right position to help carry the force of the swing through properly can be impacted by the shoes you wear.

Common foot injuries and problems associated with golf are related to overdoing it, particularly if an underlying structural problem exists in your feet. This includes tendonitis, capsulitis, and ligament sprains and pulls, which can keep a golf enthusiast off the green. Improper shoes can bring on blisters, neuromas, and other pain in the feet. Podiatrists see these problems daily and can treat them conservatively to allow for a quick return to the sport.

Golf Shoes

Remember that you'll spend a lot of time on your feet standing and walking during golf, so look for shoes that are comfortable. Golf shoes come in a variety of types, from the traditional oxford-style to sandals and even boots. Whichever style you choose, look for shoes that are lightweight, well-cushioned in the soles and heels, made from a breathable material, water resistant and offer traction. The middle of the shoe should feel a little tighter than your everyday shoes to support your swing. Be sure to try on golf shoes with the socks you will normally wear to make sure to get the right fit.

More serious golfers may be interested in purchasing spikes. Just give yourself time to adjust to walking wearing spikes and make sure you know the policy for wearing them on each golf course. Spikes give added traction and help stabilize the foot during play. Spikes are made from different materials. Soft, polyurethane spikes that are less damaging to the green and lightweight, but don't offer as much traction as a heavier material. Carbide or ceramic spikes are for serious golfers who spend a lot of time on the greens. They are made of durable materials that often outlast the shoe's upper. Metal spikes often last the life of the shoe, are very durable, give good traction but must be carefully maintained to prevent rust.

Jogging and Running

Jogging gained enormous popularity in the 1970s as a great form of cardiovascular fitness. Since then running has become one of the most popular form of physical fitness in America. Whether you run on an indoor track or outdoors, you can enjoy this activity year-round and fit it comfortably into your daily routine.

During jogging or running, the 26 bones, 33 joints, 112 ligaments, and a network of tendons, nerves, and blood vessels that make up the foot all work together. That's why you need to condition your body, build up to a routine, and stretch your muscles, tendons, and ligaments before and after each run. Debilitating muscle strain or more serious injury can result when runners or joggers don't build up their routines and allow their bodies to strengthen over time.

The most common foot problems associated with jogging or running are blisters, corns, calluses, Athlete's Foot, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis. You can prevent many simple foot problems by using proper foot hygiene. Keep your feet powdered and dry. Wear clean socks every time you run. Make sure your shoes fit properly. Most importantly, let your body be your guide so that you don't overstrain your legs, ankles, and feet. If you develop recurring and/or increasing aches and pains from jogging or running, please contact our office and we'll help you pinpoint the problem and prevent more serious injury or long-term damage to your feet.

Jogging/Running Shoes

Because of the force placed on your legs, ankles, and feet, jogging/running shoes need to provide cushioning for shock absorption. Like walking shoes, you need to select a pair designed for the shape of your foot and your natural foot structure or inclination.

There are three basic foot types:

  • Pronators are people with relatively flat feet, caused by low arches, which generally leads to overpronation, or a gait in which the ankle rolls inward excessively. People with this foot type need motion control shoes that offer support for mid-foot. Motion-control shoes are more rigid and built on a straight last. These are generally board-lasted shoes, which have a piece of cardboard running the length of the shoe for greater stability. Look for sturdy uppers for added stability and avoid shoes with a lot of cushioning or highly curved toes. Also look for a reinforced heel counter to maintain foot support and stability.
  • Supinators are people with high arches, which can lead to underpronation that places too much weight on the outsides of the feet. People with this foot type need stability shoes designed for extra shock absorption and often having a curved or semi-curved last. A slip-lasted shoe is also recommended, because the sewn seam runs the length of the shoe giving it greater flexibility. Also look for shoes that are reinforced around the ankle and heel to stabilize the foot and extra cushioning under the ball of the foot.
  • People with normal feet can wear any type of running shoe, although a curved last is generally preferred.

When you run, your foot rolls quickly from the heel to the toe, with your foot bending at the ball on each step. That's why it is important for running shoes to have enough flexibility in just the right places. However, to help with shock absorption, you need a little more rigidity to support the middle of the foot. Make sure the heel is low, but slightly wider than a walking shoe to help absorb the initial shock when your heel strikes the ground.

Here are some other important tips for buying a good pair of running shoes:

  • Shop at the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen to get a good fit.
  • Try on shoes with the socks you will wear when walking. If you use an orthotic, bring that to the store when you try on shoes as well.
  • Have your feet measured standing up and fit your shoes to the larger of your two feet.
  • Be sure there is enough room in the toe box for your toes to wiggle and about a half inch between your toes and the end of the shoe.
  • Take time when shopping to try on different brands and walk around the store in each pair. Be sure to walk on a hard surface, not just on carpeting. Let your foot be the guide to the fit, not the shoe size or style.
  • Look for lightweight, breathable materials for greater comfort.
  • Run your hand all over and inside the shoes to feel for any seams or catches that might irritate your foot.
  • Choose shoes that lace for better foot stability and control.
  • Make sure your heel fits snugly and does not tend toward slipping out of the shoe.
  • Consider buying two pairs and rotating your wear to give each pair time to breath between runs and extend the life of each pair.
  • Replace running or jogging shoes twice year or about every 400 miles.

Stretching

Before beginning any exercise regimen, proper stretching is essential. If muscles are properly warmed up, the strain on muscles, tendons, and joints is reduced.

Stretching exercises should take 5 to 10 minutes and ought to be conducted in a stretch/hold/relax pattern without any bouncing or pulling. It is important to stretch the propulsion muscles in the back of the leg and thigh (posterior) as well as the anterior muscles.

Some effective stretching exercises to prepare the foot and ankle for exercise include:

  • The wall push-up. Face a wall from three feet away, with feet flat on the floor, and knees locked. Lean into the wall, keeping feet on the floor and hold for 10 seconds as the calf muscle stretches, then relax. Do not bounce. Repeat five times.
  • The hamstring stretch. Put your foot, with knee straight and locked, on a chair or table. Keep the other leg straight with knee locked. Lower your head toward the raised knee until the muscles tighten. Hold to a count of 10 then relax. Repeat five times, then switch to the other leg.
  • Lower back stretch. In a standing position, keep both legs straight, feet spread slightly. Bend over at the waist and attempt to touch the palms of your hands to the floor. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. Do not bounce.

Excessive tightness of the calf muscles can contribute to many foot and some knee problems. A key point of injury is the Achilles tendon, which attaches the calf muscle to the back of the heel. When the calf muscle tightens up, it limits the movement of the ankle joint. 

Calf muscle stretching is very useful in the prevention and treatment of many foot problems. Two typical methods for stretching your calf muscles include the wall push-up (described above) and this technique: Standing approximately two feet from a wall. While facing the wall, turn your feet inward ("pigeon toed") and lean forward into the wall, keeping your heels on the floor and the knees extended. Keep your back straight and don't bend at the hips. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and do the stretch 10 times in a row.

Walking

About 67 million adults in this country have discovered that walking is one of the most fun, natural, and inexpensive ways of keeping your health—and your feet—in top shape. Walking can be enjoyed almost anywhere, any time, and year around. It's also a good way to get exercise, particularly for people who are out-of-shape. 

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, exercise offers a host of benefits. Walking helps control weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. A brisk walk can burn up to 100 calories per mile or 300 calories per hour. Walking also improves cardiovascular fitness. As an aerobic exercise, walking gets the heart beating faster to transport oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the muscles. The heart and lungs grow more efficient with a regular walking regimen, reducing blood pressure and the resting heart rate. Walking is also a central element of medical rehabilitation for a wide array of health problems. For example, recovery from a heart attack can be facilitated by a regular walking regimen. Additionally, walking creates an overall feeling of well-being, and can relieve depression, anxiety, and stress by producing endorphins, the body's natural tranquilizer. A brisk walk will relax you and also stimulate your thinking. 

To gain the most health benefit from walking, it is important to pay attention to your feet. Shoes that don't fit properly or provide adequate support, lack of stretching, and improper gait can lead to foot injuries or pain. The most common foot problems are blisterscornscalluses, and plantar fasciitis.

Walking Shoes 

The only equipment you need to enjoy walking for fitness is a good pair of shoes. But before you can shop for the best shoe for your foot, you need to identify the natural inclination of your foot and gait. There are three basic foot types:

  • Pronators are people with relatively flat feet, caused by low arches, which generally leads to overpronation, or a gait in which the ankle rolls inward excessively. People with this foot type need motion control shoes that offer support for mid-foot. Motion-control shoes are more rigid and built on a straight last. These are generally board-lasted shoes, which have a piece of cardboard running the length of the shoe for greater stability. Look for sturdy uppers for added stability and avoid shoes with a lot of cushioning or highly curved toes. Also look for a reinforced heel counter to maintain foot support and stability.
  • Supinators are people with high arches, which can lead to underpronation that places too much weight on the outsides of the feet. People with this foot type need stability shoes designed for extra shock absorption and often having a curved or semi-curved last. A slip-lasted shoe is also recommended, because the sewn seam runs the length of the shoe  giving it greater flexibility. Also look for shoes that are reinforced around the ankle and heel to stabilize the foot and extra cushioning under the ball of the foot.
  • People with normal feet can wear any type of walking shoe, although a curved last is generally preferred.

When you walk, the natural motion of your foot rolls gradually from the heel to the toe, with your foot bending at the ball on each step. That's why it is important for walking shoes to have enough flexibility in just the right places.  A good walking shoe should give a little when you twist it and bend at the ball of the foot. When you put the shoe on a flat surface and push on the toe the heel should come up off the surface. If it does, the shoe has the curvature you need to conform to your movement during walking.  Make sure the heel is low and not too wide. A slight undercut in the heel will help your foot begin its roll from the heel through the step.

Here are some other important tips for buying a good pair of walking shoes:

  • Shop at the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen to get a good fit.
  • Try on shoes with the socks you will wear when walking. If you use an orthotic, bring that to the store when you try on shoes as well.
  • Have your feet measured standing up and fit your shoes to the larger of your two feet.
  • Be sure there is enough room in the toe box for your toes to wiggle and about a half inch between your toes and the end of the shoe.
  • Take time when shopping to try on different brands and walk around the store in each pair. Be sure to walk on a hard surface, not just on carpeting. Let your foot be the guide to the fit, not the shoe size or style.
  • Look for lightweight, breathable materials for greater comfort.
  • Run your hand all over and inside the shoes to feel for any seams or catches that might irritate your foot.
  • Choose shoes that lace for better foot stability and control.
  • Make sure your heel fits snugly and does not tend toward slipping out of the shoe.
  • Wear your walking shoes only for walking to extend their life. Consider buying two pairs and rotating your wear to give each pair time to breath between walks.
  • Replace walking shoes after every 300 to 600 miles, depending on how hard you are on your shoes.