The recent bad press involving Vibram’s Five Fingers running shoes and how people’s feet are getting beat up in them got me thinking: it is big deal to have sore feet. It completely defines your day! Active folks rely on their feet to feel good (or at least neutral) in order to care for their bodies and stay in good health. Regardless of your preferred activities or style of shoe, when it comes to feet, the best plan is to prevent them from becoming sore in the first place. If you want to continue to put your best foot forward, take simple steps to take care for them well.

Freshen up your footwear

Look at the tread of your shoes. If it’s beginning to smooth out, then the compressive elements of your shoes are nearing their end. Don’t let those shoes get too far gone or you will pay for it with pain. Make a trip to a shoe store that has experts in fitting you for shoes specific to your activity. It matters. I like the team at Blue Mile in Broadripple for runners and walkers. Shoes not quite done? Replace your socks. It’s a cheaper option and it really makes a difference.

Ramp up slowly

Trying out a new activity? Whether walking, running, hiking, or other, please take some time and increase your intensity and distance a little at a time to allow the tissue in your feet to adapt. Running or walking 5-10 miles the first time out is a great way to create very sore, potentially chronic foot problems. When starting a new activity plan, I suggest taking distance completely out the equation and using time as your gauge. For example, try walking/running for 15-20 minutes a few times the first week, then increase your time by 5-10 minutes the next week. After 4-5 weeks of this, you can focus on distance and pace and have a great base to build on with healthy, cozy feet. Ramping up your duration and distance is especially true when transitioning into Vibram’s Five Fingers. Skip the ramp-up with these and even experienced runners will get nailed with foot pain.

Hydrate 

Proper hydration is needed for healthy performance, quick healing, and preventing swollen feet and ankles. Give your body what it needs and pump in the water. How much? Start with the recommended 64 ounces and go up from there as your activity increases.

Stretch 

Keeping the muscles surrounding your lower leg, particularly your calves, flexible helps take tension off of the ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue of the feet and ankles. Try this simple stretch: Wearing shoes, hang on to a solid structure, and place the arch of your feet on a step or curb. Lock your knees, then lower your heels towards the ground and relax. Hang there for 5-15 seconds, then raise up onto your toes, and repeat 3-4 times. Adjust your feet forward or back if there is no stretch or too much pressure. Bend your knees slightly to shift the stretch lower on the leg near the Achilles tendon.

As with many things, prevention is the best option when it comes to keeping your feet feeling great and moving you forward. Don’t stall out your fitness momentum and summer fun. Be proactive and get moving!