woman walkingAh, spring is in the air. With the great weather and no gym to go to, many people are starting to walk. Walking is great for many reasons. People who walk at a moderate pace regularly have a lower risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.

Perhaps you walk all the time and it’s no big deal to dive into your kicks and walk 3-5 miles. But for people who’ve taken it easy all winter or participated in other forms of exercise, increased walking can cause problems with the feet, ankles, and back.

Conditions like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis can flare up and low back pain can occur due to imbalances in the feet. Bunions and neuromas that have been silent all winter can become aggravated.

So how can you counter these problems?

Increase Distance Gradually

Your best friend might want to walk a 5K, but if you’ve been swimming or riding a bike as your main form of exercise, walking that far could be problematic. You’re best off increasing your distance gradually – experts suggest no more than 10% a week. Not sure where to start? Think about the farthest you walked last summer and then back off by 25% before increasing by 10%. Always ask your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

Check Your Shoes for Wear and Buy New If Necessary

Your shoes are your best protection when it comes to cushioning your feet and preventing foot and ankle problems.

First, take your tennis shoes and flip them over. Is any part of your sole more worn down more than the others? If so, you need a new pair of shoes.

When you look for new shoes comfort and support are the two most important factors. How will you know? You can only tell by trying and testing. Since the pandemic is going full force you’ll likely only be able to order online. Zappos is an excellent choice because returns are so easy. Once you get your shoes, test them for support. Here’s my video for how to do that.

Add a Pair of Over-the-Counter Inserts

Many of us need more support than any built-in shoe insert will provide. That’s because a large percentage of us are either pronators (roll our feet inwards) or supinators (roll our feet outwards). An over-the-counter insert can help provide a little bit of support in this area. So go ahead and buy some. They’re relatively inexpensive and will last about 6 months with regular wear. I recommend Powersteps.

Get Your Orthotics Checked

You may already have a pair of orthotics if you have flat feet, pronate, or you’ve had plantar fasciitis. But when was the last time you had them checked? Although they should last 5-7 years that doesn’t mean they still work for you. It’s a good idea to have them checked annually, but particularly if your weight has changed, they feel a bit uncomfortable, or you notice uneven wear on your shoes.

Do Dynamic Warm-Ups

A special kind of warm-up called "dynamic warm-ups" are great for getting your body ready to walk and prevent foot and ankle problems.  Make these warm-ups part of your daily walking ritual.

Try Yoga to Improve Foot and Ankle Strength and Flexibility

Want to help your feet and ankles even more? Check out these yoga exercises for your lower extremities. Yoga can also build awareness of how you’re walking. 

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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