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Your feet work hard, providing support every time you stand, step, or squat. “They’re the foundation to movement,” says Sue Hitzmann, M.S., creator of the Melt Method. But weaknesses in your feet and ankles can cause problems, which can undermine training and potentially lead to more serious injuries. To keep your feet healthy and injury-free, avoid making these common mistakes.
Left untreated, foot and ankle pain that once seemed minor can need serious attention. “Each day about 27,000 ankle sprains occur in the U.S.; half of those will end up injuring cartilage, and at least 25% will injure tendons or other soft tissue,” says John Kennedy, M.D., a foot and ankle surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Repetitive sprains can lead to arthritis in the ankle, he adds. If you’re experiencing frequent pain, especially on the outside of the ankle joint, it’s worth getting it checked out by your doctor to see if treatment is necessary.
We get it, everyone looks great in stilettos. But those sky-highs come with a price, and it’s not the danger of rolling your ankle. “Wearing high heels puts your Achilles tendon in a shortened position, a common area for tendinitis,” says Robin Marcus P.T., Ph.D., an associate professor of physical therapy at the University of Utah Health Sciences. It also puts a lot of stress on the front of your foot. Combine that with your workouts and you risk a stress fracture, she adds.
Your gym shoes may look great on the outside, but if they no longer provide support, you’re asking for trouble. Replace running shoes every 400 to 500 miles or about every six months for other training shoes (closer to three months if you work out every day). If your cardio consists mainly of running, buy a running-specific shoe for support, but if your workouts involve a lot of multidirectional moves, get a training shoe that also offers lateral support. Foot type also plays a part: High arches have different needs from those with flat feet.
Do you sway when standing on one leg? You might need to work on your functional stability, says Kennedy. “Strong muscles and tendons can prevent your ankle from rolling over.” Strengthening the muscles and tendons on the outside of your ankle can help: Try balancing on one foot at a time for a minute and a half daily. (You can even do it when you’re brushing your teeth.)
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The Melt Hand & Foot Treatment Kit helps alleviate pain from common issues like plantar fasciitis or arthritis. Each kit contains eight Melt treatment balls in various sizes, a bunion reducer band, two illustrated guides, and a travel case. ($50, meltmethod.com)
Roll away foot pain with the TriggerPoint Nano, designed to increase flexibility while relieving small muscular aches and pains. ($25, tptherapy.com)
The CurrexSole ActivePro insoles are engineered to support forward and lateral movements. Choose from one of three arch types (high/medium/low) and different leg axis measurements (bowleg, straight leg, knock-knees). ($50, theinsolestore.com)