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Exercise Tips

Exercise can lead to improved overall health. From reducing the chance of heart disease and stroke to decreasing stress, exercise can help all facets of your physical and mental health. Proper exercising techniques can also reduce pain in your feet and legs.

Learn more about keeping your feet healthy through exercise:

Before you start a new exercise regimen, you should consult your doctor. Also, if you injure yourself while exercising, contact your doctor for treatment.

Ankle Braces and Support

An ankle brace is often used to treat a twisted or sprained ankle. When an ankle is sprained it may swell, become stiff or tender, and may be painful to walk on. An ankle brace wraps around the ankle and uses compression to reduce swelling. It also provides stability by supporting the surrounding ligaments and muscles. An ankle brace is usually worn for a few weeks after a sprain, to help the foot function effectively while the ankle heals.

What to look for in ankle support

There are a few things to look for when choosing an ankle brace. For a mild sprain, an elastic bandage that wraps around the ankle may be all that is needed. Such a brace will compress the ankle to reduce swelling; however, it will not provide much support. For more severe sprains, additional support is necessary. In this case, look for a brace that completely surrounds the ankle and has a strap or laces that allow you to adjust the tightness of the brace.

Issues created by improper fit

It is important to find an ankle brace that fits properly and provides the right amount of support and compression. If an ankle sprain is mild, avoid using an ankle brace that is too restrictive. If the ankle is not able to move enough after a mild sprain, it may become weak and recovery will take longer.

Similarly, if an ankle sprain is severe, it is important to choose a brace that compresses the ankle and limits movement. If the ankle is able to move too much after a severe sprain, it may cause more damage and take longer to heal. Therefore, a brace used to treat a severe sprain should completely surround the ankle and have straps so the tightness of the brace can be adjusted. This will ensure that it provides enough stability.

If you're not sure what type of ankle brace will be most beneficial for you, consult your doctor.

Best Walking Practices

Walking is a good form of exercise with many health benefits, including:

  • Boosting energy.
  • Helping to strengthen your bones.
  • Helping your heart circulate more blood and deliver oxygen and nutrients to your organs.
  • Reducing stress, which can produce a more restful night's sleep.

Doctors often recommend walking for 30 minutes, three times a week. However, if you have health problems or have not exercised in quite some time, be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a walking exercise regimen.

Tips for proper walking

  • Proper footwear: The first key to proper walking is wearing comfortable shoes. Walking shoes should have arch support and allow enough room for the toes to wiggle, but they should not pinch or rub. Socks should be worn to protect the feet and keep them dry. Synthetic socks are best because they dry quickly and keep moisture away from the foot. Some socks also have a padded heel for additional support.
  • Warm up: When beginning a walk, it is important to warm up by walking at a slow pace for the first five minutes. By allowing your muscles to warm up prior to starting a more rigorous pace, you can reduce your risk of injury.
  • Walking posture: Throughout the walk be sure to maintain good posture and breathe naturally. Your neck and shoulders should be relaxed and your torso should be upright with abs tightened and elbows at 90 degrees. Keep your arms close to your body and swing them forward and backward, but do not let your hands cross your body as this will slow you down.
  • Proper stride: When you walk, your heel should make contact with the ground first and you should roll your weight through the center of your foot to your toe and then push off from the toe to take your next step. Try to keep an even stride and a steady pace. You can increase your speed, but do so gradually. When increasing your pace, focus on using the flexibility in your hips to take quicker steps as opposed to longer strides.
  • Cool down: Be sure to finish your workout with a cool down by walking at a slow pace for about five minutes. A cool down can help to prevent muscle soreness and injuries.
  • Pain awareness: If you feel pain at any time during your walk, slow down or stop walking until the pain subsides. Do not fight through the pain, as it may be a sign of an injury and continuing to walk can make the condition worse. If the pain persists or is severe, contact your doctor.

After-walk home care

After a walk, it is important to take a few minutes to stretch. Stretching can help to improve flexibility and prevent injuries. If your feet are sweaty, either change into a clean, dry pair of socks, or wash and dry your feet. Also, be sure to check your feet for any blisters or sores you may have gotten while walking, and treat them appropriately.

If your feet are swollen, soak them in warm water for five minutes and then in cool water for another five minutes. This should help to relax the feet and reduce swelling. For sore or tired feet, a foot massage can help relieve tension. Lotion can also be applied to prevent dry skin.

For more information about proper walking techniques or foot care, consult your doctor.

Common Exercise Related Foot Problems

Although regular exercise is necessary for attaining optimal overall health, exercising can cause a number of foot problems. Without stretching adequately, wearing suitable footwear, and maintaining proper form while exercising, you risk injury to the tendons, muscles, bones, and skin of your feet.

Fortunately, while many exercise-related foot problems can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, they can be healed with proper treatment. If you have a foot injury or condition caused from exercising, a skilled podiatrist can provide the necessary treatment to return or improve foot functionality.

Types of exercise related problems

Common exercise-related foot problems include:

Bone problems:

  • "Policeman's Heel" (injury to the heel bone caused by a sudden impact).
  • Foot- and toe-bone breaks and fractures (full or partial breaking of the bones).

Nerve problems:

  • Morton's Neuroma (pinching of the nerves between the toes).

Skin problems:

  • Athlete's Foot (a fungal skin infection).
  • Blisters (friction burns to the skin).
  • Bunions (enlargement of the soft tissue and bone inside the ball of the big toe).

Tendon problems:

  • Metatarsalgia (inflammation of the toe joints).
  • Plantar fasciitis (injury of the arch-of-foot tendon).
  • Turf toe (injury to the ligaments of the big toe).

Other problems:

  • Arch pain.
  • Ball-of-foot pain.
  • Forefoot pain.

Causes and symptoms of exercise foot problems

Many exercises, particularly high-impact ones such as contact sports and jogging, place great stress on your feet and legs, thereby increasing the risk of injury. Foot injuries may occur suddenly (i.e. toe sprains) or over time (i.e. tendon problems caused by repetitive movements).

The following factors can increase the likelihood of exercise-related foot problems:

  • Failing to alternate between more- and less-strenuous exercises (thereby increasing stress on the foot tissues).
  • Failing to stretch properly before and after exercising.
  • Wearing shoes that do not provide proper exercise support.

If you experience any of the symptoms of an exercise-related foot problem, including pain, tightness, and/or heat in the foot or toes, and difficulty standing or walking, call your doctor right away.

Treatment for exercise related foot problems

Treatment for an exercise-related foot problem depends on the cause and type of problem. Generally, tendon and bone problems are stabilized with a splint, bandage, or cast, thereby allowing the foot to heal. Your doctor will usually treat skin problems with a topical medication. Nerve problems may require surgery or another treatment.

If you believe you have an exercise-related foot problem and would like to learn more about your treatment options, contact your doctor for the information you need to make an informed decision for your health.

Leg Stretches

Techniques for maintaining healthy legs

Keeping your legs healthy and functional is a key component of maintaining overall podiatric health. By stretching your legs properly and regularly, you can help prevent strain and injury to the leg muscles, tendons, and joints. Leg stretches can also minimize problems caused by structural defects of your feet and legs (i.e. inward-turned ankles). Whether you are seeking to prevent a leg injury, treat a leg condition, or maintain the flexibility of your legs, stretches can help you reach your goal.

Samples of leg stretches

The following leg stretches can help minimize many foot, knee, and ankle problems, including injury to the Achilles tendon. Stretch only until you feel a slight pull of the muscles; do not bounce or over-stretch.

  • Hamstring stretch (stretches the back of the upper-leg muscle): Stand in front of a chair, keeping both legs straight, and place your left foot on the chair. Lower your head toward your left knee until the left leg muscles are tight. Hold, then relax; repeat five times. Repeat with the right leg.
  • Calf stretch (stretches the back of the lower-leg muscle): Stand two feet from a wall, facing the wall. Keeping both feet flat on the floor and the legs and back straight, lean towards the wall. Hold the stretch, and then relax. Repeat ten times.
  • Stretching prior to exercise: Stretch the legs for five to 10 minutes before exercise. It is also recommended that you alternate between less-strenuous and more-strenuous aerobic activities (i.e. swimming and jogging, respectively) to minimize impact on the foot and leg tissues.

When to see a doctor

If you have suffered a leg injury, or if you experience discomfort that does not subside with self-care techniques, contact your doctor. With a proper diagnosis and treatment from a skilled foot care professional, you can restore or improve functionality to your legs.

Proper Shoes for Activities

The key to enhancing performance and preventing injuries in athletics and day-to-day physical activities is to wear proper-fitting shoes. It is important to find shoes that not only feel comfortable, but also protect your feet.

Choosing between different types of athletic shoes and sneakers can be difficult. Shoes come in different designs, materials, and weights. Every shoe design is distinct; shoes are designed to protect the areas of the feet that receive the most stress and impact during physical activities. Since every sport requires a different type of movement, it is important to find a shoe designed specifically for one particular activity.

What to look for

There is a reason shoes are labeled as running shoes, walking shoes, tennis shoes, soccer shoes, aerobics shoes, or cross-trainers; each of these types of shoes has a unique design. While it is not uncommon for people to utilize a single pair of sneakers for multiple types of activities, it is always best to find a shoe that it suited for the right activity.

Here are some tips to help you match your shoes to a particular physical activity:

  • Walking - Walking shoes should have good shock absorption, smooth tread, and a flexible sole that encourages rolling of the feet.
  • Running - Running shoes should be light with added cushioning, flexibility, and stability in the heel.
  • Court Shoes - Basketball, tennis, and volleyball shoes should have good ankle support and a thick sole.
  • Field Sports - Soccer, football, softball, and baseball shoes are usually cleated or studded. These shoes must provide good traction.
  • Hiking - Hiking shoes should have plenty of room in the toe box, a thick sole, and strong ankle support.
  • Track and Field - Track and field shoes vary depending on the type of race being run. There are different shoes to fit different gaits and training styles.

Issues created by improper shoe fit

Many serious foot conditions are caused by one thing – poorly fitting or inappropriate footwear. Shoes that do not fit properly can cause:

  • Blisters.
  • Bunions.
  • Calluses.
  • Hammertoes.

Inappropriate shoe wear can lead to:

  • Ankle sprains.
  • Fractures.
  • Heel pain.
  • Metatarsalgia.
  • Other painful foot disorders.
  • Shin splints.

For example, running shoes are designed to support the foot as it moves forward heel-to-toe with extra cushioning on the heel and ball of the foot. On the other hand, aerobics shoes and cross-trainers are designed to support side-to-side movements. It is usually acceptable to wear cross-trainers when running, but wearing running shoes to an aerobics class can lead to serious foot and ankle injuries. The best way to avoid injury is to make sure the shoe you select is designed for your chosen activity.

Running and Jogging Injuries

Running and jogging provides a number of health benefits, making these exercises an excellent option for improving one's overall well-being; however, running is a high-impact exercise, causing many joggers to injure their feet and legs.

Common injuries

Some common running and jogging injuries include:

Arch problems:

  • Flat feet caused by overpronation (running with the toes turned in).

Bone problems:

  • Broken bones and stress fractures.

Nerve problems:

  • Morton's Neuroma (pinching of the nerves between the toes).

Other problems:

  • Shin splints (inflammation of the sheath surrounding the shin bone).
  • Sprains (stretching and/or tearing of a ligament).
  • Strains (stretching and/or tearing of a muscle).

Skin problems:

  • Athlete's Foot (a fungal skin infection).
  • Blisters.
  • Bunions.

Tendon problems:

  • Metatarsalgia (inflammation of the toe joints).
  • Plantar fasciitis (injury of the arch-of-foot tendon).
  • Turf toe (injury to the ligaments of the big toe).

If you have suffered one of these injuries, or if you are experiencing symptoms of a running-related injury, your doctor can help. With proper treatment, you can have the health and functionality of your feet and legs improved or restored.

Causes and symptoms of running /jogging injuries

Some jogging injuries are simply the result of placing stress on your feet and legs – an unavoidable component of many physical exercises. Many jogging injuries result from improper preparation (e.g. failing to stretch properly prior to exercise and failure to wear proper footwear). Others stem from over training (e.g. running too hard or too fast, thereby placing excessive strain on the feet and legs).

The symptoms of jogging injuries include:

  • Burning or itching of the skin.
  • Decreased performance.
  • Difficulty running.
  • Discomfort, tightness, and/or heat in the feet and legs.
  • Snapping or crackling sounds in the joints.

Treatment for running / jogging injuries

In treating a jogging or running injury, your doctor will take into consideration a number of factors, including the cause of the injury, type of iinjury, and your overall health. Generally speaking, tendon and bone injuries respond well to stabilizing the area of injury thereby allowing the tissues to heal. Skin injuries may need topical treatment while nerve injuries may require more invasive solutions.

If you are experiencing symptoms of a running- or jogging-related injury, call your doctor to learn about treatment that can help resolve your pain.

The Importance of Good Socks

When purchasing socks, most people generally do not think about the total protection they provide. Socks are used for more than just padding and cushioning, they serve as a barrier between the shoes and the feet. A good pair of socks can help absorb some of the pounding suffered by feet and ankles, reduce soreness following physical activities, and prevent foot conditions like calluses, blisters, and fungal infection.

What to look for in a good pair of socks

Finding good socks is not as easy as choosing the most expensive brand. Socks need to be comfortable, and they should also be suited to the proper activity and use.

Here are a few things to consider when picking out socks:

  • Do not purchase socks without trying them on first.
  • If you are an athlete, try to find socks designed specifically for your sport.
  • Look for a high thread count (denser socks repel moisture and protect the feet for longer periods).
  • Look for socks with a reinforced heel and toe.
  • Look for socks with cushion sole support.
  • Make sure to buy the proper sock size; your toes should reach the seam, and the heel padding should hit your heel in the proper place.

Issues created by improper sock fit

Finding a pair of properly fitting shoes is one of the best ways to prevent foot injury, and a pair of good socks an provide extra insurance against injury. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true; poorly fitting socks can cause blisters, calluses, and abrasions.

Socks that are too tight often trap moisture; this can lead to fungal development and conditions like athlete's foot and toenail fungus. Socks with insufficient cushioning also pose problems for athletes, particularly anyone who plays sports that require pounding feet on pavement and jumping.

A good pair of socks will keep feet cool, dry, and comfortable. To avoid blisters, hot spots, abrasions, and fungal growth, look for socks that wick away moisture and cause less friction and irritation.

Toe Exercises

Techniques for Maintaining Healthy Toes

If you have ever suffered a toe injury or even mild toe discomfort, you know how debilitating the loss of function in just one toe can be. Since the toes bear the brunt of our daily walking and exercise, keeping the toes fit and supple is a top priority for maintaining podiatric health. Whether you have a toe condition or simply want to prevent one from occurring, there are a number of toe exercises that can strengthen the toes and help prevent injury.

Samples of toe exercises

The following toe exercises are useful for maintaining the toes' flexibility. They are particularly useful for treating hammertoes, toe cramps, ball-of-foot pain, and other toe problems related to over-constricting the foot muscles.

Pointing and flexing your toes

Exercise each toe, one by one. Point the toe, hold for 10 seconds, then flex the toe and hold for 10 seconds.

Squeezing your toes

Use your toes to hold a small cork or other pliable object. Squeeze the object for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.

Strengthening your toes

There are several toe-strengthening exercises you can perform, including:

  • Place a rubber band around all five toes on each foot. Splay the toes and hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.
  • Place a small towel on the floor in front of you. Grip the towel with your toes and pull it toward you. (You can also place a weight on the end of the towel for added resistance.) Repeat five times.
  • Place 20 marbles on the floor in front of you. Using your toes, pick the marbles up, one at a time.

Massaging and relaxing your toes

Some options for relaxing your toes include:

  • Roll a golf ball on the ball of your foot, foot arch, and heel. (Helps relax the foot muscles and ease heel pain, foot cramps, and arch strain.)
  • Walk barefoot in the sand. (Massages the feet, strengthens the toes, and conditions the foot muscles and joints.)

When to see a doctor

If you are experiencing acute pain, or if your discomfort does not decrease with proper self-care methods, contact your doctor. A skilled podiatrist can determine the source of your discomfort and recommend any treatment you may need.