Can You Prevent Foot and Ankle Overuse Injuries? Of Course!

With the bleakest days of the pandemic seemingly behind us, people are venturing out of their homes with renewed, pent-up energy to resume their sports activities.

With that understandable energy often comes unbridled enthusiasm, which can cause overuse of foot and ankle muscles and joints that have been stuck in the house for many, many months.

Our office sees patients every day that suffer sports injuries caused by overuse of the foot and ankle. Some of these are relatively minor foot injuries, while others involve chronic pain of an ankle sprain from overdoing workouts.

Read on to understand how you can boost your exercise regime while safeguarding your feet and ankles from overuse.

Preventing Overuse Injury

The joys of cross-training

No matter what your exercise of choice, it’s critical to listen to your body — it will guide you through a healthy advancement of stress. Remember to thoroughly warm up before a workout.

Cross-training is essential for a balanced workout. The feet and ankles will attempt to respond no matter how much stress you put on them; but they can only handle so much before breaking down.

So, before you take up the no-pain no-gain mantra, strive for a balanced exercise regime. For example, if you’re an avid runner, don’t do it every day. Avoid foot and ankle pain and let the running stress recover.

That doesn’t mean you have to take a day off. On days that you don’t run practice an entirely different form of exercise such as biking, yoga, swimming, or strength training.

Remember: slow and steady wins the race.

Exercises to strengthen the feet and ankles

It’s no secret that the feet and ankles bear the brunt of your weight. So, it makes sense, then, to treat them with care.

Here is an exercise program recommended by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons that can help prevent overuse and increase muscle strength:

  • To strengthen your calves, ankles, and feet: walk across the room on your tiptoes several times.
  • To correct shin splints and strengthen the ankles and feet: walk on your heels several times across the room.
  • For the calves and feet: stand on the edge of a step with the back halves of your feet hanging over the edge. Engaging your calf muscles, raise your heels to lift your body vertically, then slowly lower down as far as is comfortable.
  • To strengthen your arches: sit with your feet flat on the floor, and draw up your arch by sliding your big toe joint along the floor toward your heel without allowing your toes to curl or your foot to lift. Hold the contraction for 5 seconds, then release.

What are the most common overuse injuries?

Plantar fasciitis

About 13% of athletes suffer from painful plantar fasciitis, a common foot overuse injury. It affects the plantar fascia ligament at the bottom of the heel bone, which extends under the foot to the bones of your toes.

Illustration of plantar fascia

The ligament can become inflamed with overuse and develop foot pain in the heel that often extends to the arch of the foot. Pain is most intense first thing in the morning and after being seated for an extended period of time. Early on, plantar fasciitis pain usually diminishes with movement but, in the condition’s later stages, pain can remain even after movement or stretches.

Many people use shoe inserts (also called custom orthotics) to support their arches –  reducing the pain by as much as 35% with firm support. Here at University Foot and Ankle Institute (UFAI), our podiatrists can fit you with customized insoles to use during your workout.

Bone stress injuries

Our feet have 26 bones that – along with the calf’s tibia and fibula – bear the brunt of high repetition and overuse. For example, when running or walking the feet absorb three times your body weight with each step.

Bone stress injuries may be difficult to notice at the beginning until they eventually turn into a stress fracture. Pain is felt in one part of the foot along with swelling. Rest from the activity causing pain and stop weight-bearing immediately. It is recommended that you improve arch support with a metatarsal pad.

If the pain worsens and does not cease, make an appointment with us and let our experts evaluate your feet with X-rays.

Calf raises

Achilles tendon

Almost 60% of athletes suffer some sort of tendon injury from overuse. The Achilles tendon is the largest in the body and transfers energy from our large leg muscles to the foot.

The first sign of Achilles tendinitis – an inflamed Achilles tendon – is heel pain. At the onset, pain may be minimal, but worse after sleeping or sitting. However, people who cannot resist the temptation of overuse may experience swelling and constant acute pain.

One exercise that can be effective for alleviating Achilles tendonitis pain are heel lifts. Standing with a chair or wall to hold for balance, raise the heel of your injured leg – as if you were going to stand on your tip-toes – then slowly return your entire foot to the floor. Doctors recommend three sets of 15 repetitions daily. As with all foot and ankle problems, it may be time for an office visit if the pain is unrelenting.

Big toe pain

Of the 33 joints in the foot, the most vulnerable to pain and arthritis is the big toe, sometimes called the great toe. This condition can be exacerbated by skewed alignment, bony prominences, and stiffness in the joints, which can cause ongoing pain and limit the range of motion.

Our podiatrists can take X-rays to evaluate the exact cause of the pain. Possible causes can be:

  • gout
  • early stages of arthritis
  • the beginning stages of a bunion.

Many times, footwear with cushioning can solve the problem, at least temporarily. However, treatment options for bunions and arthritis sometimes require surgery.

Why trust UFAI with foot and ankle overuse issues?

At UFAI patients always receive personalized care from our internationally recognized foot and ankle specialists. We treat you as an individual, not as just another patient. In creating a podiatry treatment plan, we take into account your physical activities, profession, and what you expect to see as the result of our sports medicine treatment

Most of our innovative treatments are not surgical, but more conservative ways to relieve your troubled feet.

We understand that your time is valuable, so when your doctor requires a more detailed look at your feet we don’t ask you to go anywhere else. UFAI owns its own MRI, X-ray, and CT scan equipment.

Also, we have physical therapy on-site, which streamlines your recovery and allows our doctors to stay abreast of your recovery.

We take patients’ safety seriously. Our podiatry facility’s Covid-19 patient safety procedures exceed all the CDC’s coronavirus pandemic recommendations. Masks are always required in our institutes.

Foot and ankle overuse treatment near me

University Foot and Ankle Institute is conveniently located throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles area. Our foot doctors are available at locations in or near Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Northridge, Westlake Village, Granada Hills, Valencia, and Santa Barbara.

Make an appointment online or call us at (877) 738-6001 today!

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