Maybe it is terribly obvious that your feet are one of the most important assets when it comes to running. But most runners don’t realize what benefits come from the maintenance of proper podiatric health. Whether you are Usain Bolt or just another person trying to finish a weekend 5k, runners of all capacities can benefit from appropriate podiatric care. As the main conduit between your body and the ground, that you are pushing with, don’t you think your feet deserve more attention than we often give them? Maintaining proper foot health is the key to a long and successful running career. Professional runners from 3 times New York City Marathon Champion Alberto Salazar to American Record Holder in the Mile, Alan Webb are proponents of proper foot care. It’s only logical to think that the part of the body enduring the most abuse deserves the most attention and care. Luckily foot care in the running industry has a long history of in-depth study that has lead to large advances in podiatric technology geared towards preventing injuries.
What are the most Common Injuries?
Injury is the criminal inevitability of the sport and is almost a rite of passage to becoming a true runner. Though we cannot prevent injury all together there are various methods and techniques that your podiatrist can recommend to help reduce the frequency of these injuries. Some of the most common injuries reported by runners are plantar fasciitis, plantar fasciopathy, and Achilles tendinitis. These are all categorized as overuse injuries that leave runners vulnerable to these ailments. Though they are all categorized under a single title there are many different factors that will put you at a higher risk of contracting these running-related injuries. Here are some of the most common causes:
Sudden changes in running surfaces (grass to asphalt)
Improper mechanics of the foot such as high and low arches
Sudden changes in training stimulus (Adding sprints, hills, or mileage too quickly)
How to avoid injury
The causes listed above are all contributing factors to the aforementioned overuse injuries. Injuries like Achilles tendinitis are often due to muscle weakness in the lower leg combined with improper foot mechanics. This type of injury for example can be prevented by the implementation of a strength and flexibility routine provided by your podiatrist. Pascal Dobert, former Olympian in the steeplechase and current strength and flexibility coach for the Oregon Track Club Elite is an advocate of the eccentric heel drop exercise for when runners are looking to prevent Achilles tendinitis. David McHenry, a physical therapist for the Nike Oregon Project suggests runners who suffer from plantar fasciopathy and plantar fasciitis start a routine of foot strengthening exercises to help prevent and relieve pain from these common overuse injuries. By visiting your doctor, he or she will also be able to analyze what biomechanical imbalances exist within your foot and will be able to construct orthotics that will provide proper support. In short, we are not centipedes so we only get 1 pair of feet so make sure you treat them well.
Are custom orthotics worth it?
If you’ve ever been to a podiatrist because of a running injury, it’s likely that he or she suggested you get a custom shoe insert, or “orthotic,” made to treat or prevent injury. Certainly, there are still some universals when it comes to custom orthotic design. A runner with chronic pain under his first metatarsal head will almost certainly benefit from a shoe insert which will help relieve pressure on this area. And fortunately, the field of podiatry is (slowly) moving away from evaluating every foot relative to a “normal” one and instead focusing on the actual cause of tissue stress. If your doctor does recommend a custom insert, don’t be afraid to try a high-quality over-the-counter orthotic first (like Super Feet or Power Step insoles), since they aren’t nearly as expensive as a custom orthotic, and at least one study has indicated that they may work just as well as a custom orthotic. But the issue of comfort remains your best indicator of whether or not an orthotic is going to work for you. If you have a foot or lower leg injury and decide to give an orthotic a shot, it should feel better, not worse, than running without an orthotic. If an orthotic feels wonky while walking or running, it’s unlikely that it will help prevent future injuries. So if you suffer from foot pain and want to know more about how to prevent injuries then our runners assessment package is the best place to start.