Best Foot Forward
As the days lengthen and New Year’s running resolutions get re-investigated, don’t charge into training blindly. Your feet are more fragile than you think…
Article by Lauren Naylor Photograph by Kristian Olsen
“Summer bodies are made in Winter!” bellow the marketing teams behind large fitness chains, as they rub their hands together with glee, whilst an influx of members sign up to tone up in their post-crimbo desperation.
Theoretically, as long as you don’t class December as winter, I’m inclined to agree.
Shifting ‘the winter fat suit’ means slogging it out on the treadmill, umpteen HIIT classes, or signing up for the marathon (in the most extreme cases). Either way, we spend six months of the year honing that gym bod in order for us to eat what we like on a swanky all-inclusive hol; then we spend the best part of the other half grumbling at the state of our muffin tops (and the crescendo is usually boozy, indulgent December).
Fitness wise, it is your feet that take the most toll when it comes to the sporadic training methods we tend to adopt as a nation, a fact that is exacerbated if you’re not a seasoned gym-goer. Charging into a fitness regime from minimal to maximum is never advisable.
Dean Hodgkin Ragdale Hall’s Health & Fitness Consultant comments, “There are no short cuts when it comes to training, hence the reason taking on events such as a Marathon require considerable forward planning – although this equally applies to getting in shape to go on holiday. Crash training will simply lead to you ‘crashing out’ as doing too much too soon will almost certainly lead to overuse injury. In addition to which, it won’t be much fun. It’s worth noting that in a 2014, Norwegian study, Scientists established that when runners completed 24 gruelling workouts over an eight week period, their fitness improved. This was in stark contrast to another group who completed an identical set of 24 workouts in a 3 week period and their fitness actually declined. The clear message is to plan ahead. Give yourself time and then you’ll enjoy both the journey and the results.”
Podiatrist Neil McAllister, founder of Essex based company Kinetic Podiatry, gives his advice if you’re planning to embark on a fitness regime by starting with the basics and ensuring you are well kitted out. He says: ‘It is always best to visit a specialist running shop to buy trainers for marathon training. The pronation of the foot is vital to healthy training techniques so start with finding the correct footwear for you.’
When it comes to keeping injuries at bay, Neil advises: ‘Stretching both before and after a gym session is absolutely vital and tends to be under estimated in importance. Simple stretches such as rolling a tennis ball under the foot arch before exercise as well as more common stretches such as calf and foot stretches are steps people tend to miss out when they commence a rigorous training regime. Frequent sports massages and a gait analysis by a registered podiatrist to assess for any irregularities are also advisable. It is always better to treat a potential problem rather than an injury. A podiatrist can advise whether to introduce an insole, tape the affected area or if it is a case of focusing on flexibility of lower joints and hips. Making sure that you are not carrying excessive weight is also advisable for optimum hip and lower limb health.’
If something doesn’t feel quite right, go with your instincts, trust your body. Neil notices, “The main running injuries that tend to start a few months into marathon training are Plantar Fascitis, runner’s knee and shin splints. As training increases so does risk of injury if you have a bio mechanical imbalance in the leg/foot. It is crucial not to run through any form of leg pain as this exacerbates the issue and can lead to a longer recovery time. Plantar Fascitis, sometimes known as Policeman’s heel, presents as a sharp stabbing pain in the heel (on getting out of bed it can cause you to raise your foot immediately off the ground as though you have trodden on something sharp) and is one of the most irksome injuries to pick up. Although symptoms will ease during the day it can make training near on impossible and is an injury that can take up to a year to disappear – even when rested.”
It’s not just running and weights that can cause issues with your feet. Watch your bare feet around the changing rooms and swimming areas in the gym. Neil suggests: “Ensuring maintenance of good foot hygiene and treatment of any existing conditions such as athletes foot, ingrowing toe nails or corns and callouses will ensure optimum comfort when training. It is worth visiting a podiatrist to have a foot health overhaul prior to, or in early, training to make sure that conditions don’t become larger issues.”