It’s a well-known fact that Seattle has more dogs than children--153,000, 107,178 respectively. And with the pandemic that number might be higher. We know that dog walking is fantastic for your health, however, it’s important to be aware of the types of foot and ankle injuries most common to people who walk them regularly.
While about half the injuries dog owners endure are in the upper body, many of them occur in the feet and ankles. The kinds of foot and ankle injuries dog walkers sustain run the gamut from overuse injuries to acute injuries.
Overuse Injuries from Dog Walking in Seattle
Not everyone who has a dog is an athlete—in fact many are far from it. Putting in a lot of extra mileage on our feet can cause several foot problems. And for those of us who may be newer to pet ownership, painful foot problems can be more severe. That’s because our bodies and feet need to build up mileage gradually to spring back from the added distance. If you’re an older adult in your early 60s and 70s, it will take even longer to come back from added mileage.
When we put more dog walking miles on our feet than our bodies are used to, we can develop the following foot problems.
- Plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendonitis
- Shin splints (more common when walking up and down hills)
- Stress fracture—more common in women and those with low bone density, most often seen in older adults
Treatment for Overuse Injuries in Dog Walkers
Stop and Rest
If you’re experiencing pain with dog walking, stop what you’re doing and rest.
Assess Your Mileage
Assess whether you’ve been putting on too much added mileage. If so, then strive for shorter distances. Only build up distance by 10% a week.
While ice won’t solve your problem, in the short term it can help relieve pain and decrease inflammation. Apply an ice pack your heel, Achilles, or shins placing a thin towel between the ice and the skin. Use ice for 20 minutes and then wait at least 40 minutes before icing again.
Assess Your Shoes
One of the biggest culprits contributing to foot pain are your shoes. Make sure your shoes have low mileage and are supportive and stable. If you need to buy a new pair of shoes, go to a reliable shoe store and have your feet measured. Test your shoes to make sure they only bend at the ball, can’t easily be wrung out like a rag, and have a firm heel counter.
Visit Your Seattle Podiatrist
It’s important to see your podiatrist in Seattle to get a proper diagnosis and follow-up treatment. If your feet have faulty mechanics your podiatrist will likely cast you for orthotics. Our office has the latest technology in orthotics—Go4D or 3D printed orthotics.
You’ll also start on a stretching program if your calf muscles are tight.
If your foot pain is severe, you may also receive a cortisone shot to relieve it or a walking boot to immobilize it.
Acute Injuries from Dog Walking in Seattle
You know what it’s like if you own a dog. Your pooch is moving along just great and then they get all wound up in the leash and oftentimes so do you. This can be a recipe for disaster. While some folks can easily get out of this mess, it turns out that women over 65 who walk their dogs are at high risk for falls and potential hip fractures. However, recent emergency room data from the Centers for Disease control also found a high rate of falls among children and adults aged 35-54.
While hip fractures have been the most sited injury, foot and ankle sprains and fractures are also likely along with contusions, abrasions, lacerations, and puncture wounds when your pooch decides to go after a squirrel.
Preventing Dog Walking Injuries
Chronic dog walking foot injuries can be prevented through the following:
- Build up your dog walking mileage by no more than 10% a week
- Stretch your calf muscles before and after you walk, particularly if they’re tight.
- Purchase supportive shoes and avoid flip flops and high heels.
- Add an over-the-counter insert to your shoes or see a podiatrist to get custom orthotics if you are prone to heel pain.
Acute dog walking foot and ankle injuries can be prevented by:
- Hold the leash properly – hold the leash in the palm of your hand instead of wrapping it around your wrist or fingers. This will give you better control over your dog.
- Keep your dog on a short leash – the longer the leash the more there is for your dog to pull and the more likely you are to fall and get injured. Avoid using a retractable leash as they teach your dog to pull.
- Avoid walking your dog using a bike, skateboard, or scooter – while this looks like fun you’re more likely to get injured because you’re not in a stable position to control your dog.
- Wear the right shoes – the right shoes will also make a difference with acute injuries. Supportive shoes will provide you with more stability when you need to control your dog. Again, no flip flops or high heels. Wear stable tennis shoes for dry months and low heeled boots for the wet ones.
- Avoid uneven walkways
- Stay off your phone and don’t wear earbuds or a headset – keep your wits about you when dog walking so you aren’t caught off guard
- Be on the lookout for dog distractors – other dogs, squirrels, and other dog distractors can catch you off guard. Keep your dog in close when these factors are involved.
- Train your dog – train your dog to walk alongside you when they’re young. It will pay off big time later on.
Need Relief From Dog Walking Injuries in Seattle, Washington? Request an Appointment Now
Don't let plantar fasciitis or other dog walking injuries cause you to miss out on the activities you enjoy. Complete the contact form on this page or call our office at 206-368-7000 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Berg.
Most new patients are seen within 1-2 week's time. During your initial visit, Dr. Berg will spend up to 30 minutes getting to know you, your podiatry complaints, and your goals so that he can recommend the treatment best meets your needs. Don’t wait—contact us today.
North Seattle Foot & Ankle Specialist Dr. Rion Berg offers compassionate podiatry care for all foot and ankle problems to those living in Seattle Washington and the surrounding areas. Call us today at 206-368-7000 for an immediate appointment or request an appointment online.