Walking is a great way to keep fit and healthy. It is low impact, requires no equipment or expensive memberships and is social and fun. Unfortunately, aches and pains can get in the way of your exercise routine, so you need to tend to them before they become chronic problems. Here are some of the more common walking injuries:
Plantar fasciitis is a pain in the arc of the foot. The plantar fascia travels from the ball of the foot to the heel bone. It acts as a shock absorber. When improper footwear is worn (this is common in martial artists who practice barefoot), the fascia can get torn. The result is quite painful – especially in the morning when the fascia is a bit tougher.
To treat this condition, wear supportive shoes all of the time – even in the house. When seated, massage your fascia gently on a tennis ball. Loosen the tissue by stretching your toes toward your shin. If the condition worsens, see your doctor about a referral to a podiatrist.
It is no small wonder that runners and walkers are prone to shin pain. Our shins absorb an incredible amount of weight – up to six times our own weight – while running or walking. The result of repeated pounding movements is strain on the calf muscles.
If it’s too late to change your exercise program completely, you will have to ease off of it. Cut back on your walking and use a cross-trainer or bicycle instead. Work on strengthening the muscles in the front of the shin by lifting your toes toward your knees 10-15 times. Talk to your doctor about taking anti-inflammatory medication to ease the pain.
The Achilles is found in your heel and runs up to where your calf muscle begins. You can irritate this tendon when you are walking on uneven surfaces or are repeatedly flexing the foot. To ease the pain, lay off the hills for awhile. It’s best to stick to non-weight-bearing activities instead. You can also apply a cold compress to the area to reduce inflammation. Stretch the calf gently.
Bunions are often found in women who constantly wear uncomfortable or constricting footwear. The bones in the toe become misaligned and the result is swelling and pain. If you have arthritis or low arches you may also be more likely to have bunions.
The easiest way to prevent and treat a bunion is to wear comfortable footwear. Choose shoes that aren’t narrow at the toes (no pointed stilettos). To soothe the pain, you can find bunion pads at your local pharmacy, or simply ice the area regularly.
The best way to treat walking pain is to prevent it. Wear sturdy shoes that are made for walking. If you aren’t sure, go to a store that specializes in running shoes and can assess your gait and recommend the right shoes for you.
When you start to feel pain, ease off of the activity. Ignoring pain won’t make it go away, it will only get worse. Instead, try a different activity while you allow the area to heal. Rest the area, stretch the muscles, strengthen the surrounding muscles and ice the area when appropriate.