Best foot forward

We meticulously plan our workouts and training sessions down to the last step, but where on this tight-run fitness ship do poor old feet fit in? Let’s be honest, you’re only likely to pay them attention when they start to hurt…

That’s why Matthew Fitzpatrick is urging fitness enthusiasts to discover how simple it is to keep feet in peak condition and why it’s so important.

Before pain puts paid to your exercise endeavours regime, says Matthew, follow this series of feet-friendly tips…

Choose the correct footwear
For running, shoes need to provide adequate cushioning from the heel to the midsole, along with a flared heel for stability. For racket sports, such as squash or tennis, sideways support is required – this offers stability when moving and stopping suddenly around the court. Always match your shoes to your sport/workout – a proper fitting at a reputable sports store is your first stop. Never buy the wrong size.

Don’t ignore sweaty feet
The average pair of feet gives off an egg cup of sweat per day (more if you’re wearing sports footwear) and things get smelly when bacteria on the skin breaks down sweat. Washing your feet and airing your trainers between workouts will reduce the build-up of bacteria and the fungal elements that can cause athlete’s foot. Wiping trainers with surgical spirit post-workout will also help to reduce bacteria, as will wearing socks (at least 70% cotton) that absorb sweat. 

Remember that foot pain isn’t normal
If you experience it, then see your podiatrist (i.e. dedicated foot doctor). A common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis (irritation and inflammation of the soft tissues) and its often brought on by extensive running, walking or standing for long periods of time. A change of surface (e.g. road to track), poor footwear support, overuse or sudden stretching of your sole, or a tight Achilles tendon can also lead to this painful condition. Well-fitted shoes with a cushioned heel and effective arch support will ward off heel issues, as will avoiding exercise on hard ground. 

Say YES to socks
They’re just as important as shoes and are crucial in reducing the risk of fungal infections and debilitating blisters. Just like shoes, select the sock according to your sport.

Warm your feet up!
We all know how important a pre-match, run or workout warm-up is, but always make sure the feet are gently stretched – and not placed at risk of injury – too.

Act on blisters immediately
Blisters are painful, fluid-filled lesions produced by friction and pressure. They tend to be caused by ill-fitting footwear, stiff shoes, wrinkled socks against the skin or excessive moisture. Blisters can form very quickly, so as soon as you feel an inkling of discomfort, stop what you’re doing and apply some padding or (if you’ve one to hand) a cushioned, breathable, waterproof plaster. Should the blister be so large that it means you can’t get into shoes, then carefully bursting (but not removing) the overlying skin will help. Cover with a clean and dry dressing and monitor. If it’s open and there is raw skin underneath, consider using an antimicrobial cream and covering with a clean, dry dressing with a non-stick centre. Avoid ex-cess friction and a blister should be gone within three to seven days. Still causing an issue or you suffer from diabetes? See a podiatrist.

Shin splints
Shin splints is a commonly used term for pain in the shins and is usually brought on by running or repetitive weightbearing on the legs leading to inflammation of the soft tissue around the tibia. If you experience ongoing pain in your shins, consult a podiatrist for a diagnosis and relevant treatment. 

Always seek expert medical advice for reoccurring or continuous foot issues or pain.