May Articles 2013

Barefoot Running

A new trend in running and jogging has popped up recently, called barefoot running. Barefoot running is a popular and growing trend that is just what it sounds – running without shoes. Before deciding to do any running without shoes, it's best to understand how this kind of running affects the feet.

Running without shoes changes the motion of running. Most running is done by landing on the heel of the feet. Running barefoot requires a different way of running; in a barefoot stride landing is done on the front part of the feet. Because of this, the impact shifts from the heels to the front feet. Runners also shorten their strides to create a softer landing.

Running barefoot does have its advantages. When running and landing on the front feet, the impact on the feet and ankle is reduced, which may reduce the incidence of stress injuries. It strengthens muscles in the feet, and also strengthens muscles in the ankles and lower legs that aren't usually worked. Overall balance of the body is improved and there is greater sensory input from the feet to the rest of the body, making overall position and motion less stressful on the body. It has been found that in countries in which some of the population regularly wear shoes and some do not, numbers of foot and ankle injuries are much higher in those who wear shoes.

People hearing about barefoot running for the first time are skeptical about it, and there are good reasons for skepticism. Running barefoot certainly has its drawbacks, the obvious being no protection of the feet when running. This makes it likely that when runners land on sharp or rough objects,  scrapes, bruises, and cuts on feet will result. Blisters will form when beginning this kind of running especially, you may have plantar fascia problems. Landing on the front feet constantly also increases the risk of getting Achilles tendonitis.

So what can runners do to make barefoot running safe? It’s best to make a slow transition from running shoes to barefoot running. The body is used to wearing shoes so to slowly transition to bare feet, start by walking barefoot for a distance and then increase walking distance. Once the feet begin to adjust, try walking and then jogging and gradually increase the distance. If you have foot problems talk to the doctor first before attempting barefoot running. When starting out, it may also be helpful to begin by running on pavement or other consistent surfaces to avoid sharp or rough objects. Minimalist running shoes may also be an option, as they allow for many of the benefits of barefoot running while also protecting the feet from cuts and scrapes.


Pregnancy and Foot Health

Many pregnant women complain about foot pain while they are expecting, primarily caused by weight gain and hormonal changes taking place in the body. By understanding how pregnancy impacts the health of a woman's feet, a pregnant woman can take action to keep her feet as healthy and comfortable as possible.

Because a woman's weight changes during pregnancy, more pressure is brought to bear on both the legs and the feet. This weight shift can cause two major foot problems: over-pronation, also known as flat feet, as well as edema, which is swelling of the feet. Over-pronation occurs when the arch of the foot flattens, causing the foot to roll inwards when the individual is walking, and can aggravate the plantar fascia tissues located along the bottom of the feet. If these tissues become inflamed, a pregnant woman can experience pain in the heel of the foot as well as severe foot pain while walking or standing. Swelling of the feet, or edema, often occurs in the later stages of pregnancy, caused by slow circulation and water retention, and may turn the feet a light purple color.

To keep feet in good health and prevent over-pronation, pregnant women should avoid walking barefoot and be sure they are wearing shoes that offer good arch support. Often a device known as an orthotic can be added to regular footwear in order to provide additional support for the feet during pregnancy. Any expectant mother whose feet hurt should first check to see if the shoes she is wearing are old, worn out and not offering the arch of the foot the proper support necessary to support and distribute the weight of her body during pregnancy.

To treat edema of the feet, a good start is to wear quality footwear which offers support and good circulation. Keep feet elevated whenever possible by using a foot stool while seated. Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water to prevent water retention in the feet. Any swelling that occurs in only one foot should be examined as soon as possible by a doctor.

Good foot health during pregnancy can help expectant mothers avoid foot pain that leads to other health problems. Massaging the feet and doing regular gentle exercise like walking aids in foot health by contributing to good circulation. Supportive shoes are also a good investment that will support foot health during pregnancy.


Foot Rehabilitation for Athletes

It is hard to think of a sport in which the ankle and foot are completely safe from injury. Even simple activities such as darts and pool can cause injuries to the foot. When an athlete does suffer from a foot injury, he needs to find a way to get back on his feet right away. Immediate results may be desired, but they are not always possible.

Severe injuries require special attention. When the foot or the ankle gets injured, muscles surrounding the bones can weaken or atrophy through disuse. While the bones will heal on their own, it takes a more concentrated effort for an athlete to regain full use of his feet and ankles. A doctor may recommend that a person go through a course of physical therapy. The course of physical therapy treatment uses simple, repetitive isometric exercises. The use of the exercises will cause the body to rebuild the muscles and tendons in the area over time and restore the full range of movement.

When selecting ankle and foot rehabilitation services, an athlete needs to find a licensed sports therapist (other physical therapists work with more generalized conditions, and while these kinds of physical therapists are dedicated to their job, they do not necessarily understand the special demands of the athlete). A good sports therapist will take their time with a patient, and make sure that he or she understands the problem and the options available for treatment.As long as the doctor expects a person to return to the sport which he enjoys, the sports physical therapist will recommend the exact exercises a person needs to get back in the game.

Although the professional athlete needs a trained sports therapist, an amateur athlete or the weekend player can benefit from foot rehabilitation services for athletes as well. An ankle or foot injury does not have to cause a person go give up the game he loves entirely, so long as he or she seeks out a sports therapist.

Physical therapy can not always perfectly heal certain injuries, but it will more quickly and effectively help the afflicted person get better.  Less severe injuries may only take a person out of his favorite sport just for a little while, if he or she sees a sports therapist. As long as the doctor the athlete sees thinks a full recovery is possible, it is worth it to check out ankle and foot rehabilitation services.

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