People tend to renew their commitment to fitness right around the New Year. They sign up for gym memberships, buy new workout clothes and shoes and make promises to stick to their New Year’s resolutions to exercise and lose weight.
They hit the gym, work out hard for a week and then wake up one morning with pain shooting through their heels. Exercise begins to hurt so much that they stay home on the couch instead.
Soon after the last gulp of New Year’s champagne, foot and ankle surgeons see the annual influx of patients with foot pain caused by exercise. Doctors interviewed by the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) say the most common problems are heel pain, pinched nerves and sore Achilles tendons.
Most heel pain cases are caused by plantar fasciitis. Foot and ankle surgeons recommend athletic shoes that support the arch and cushion the heel. People should buy shoes designed for their sport. Orthotics may help some people.
To treat heel pain, patients should first trying icing the bottom of their feet before bed.
Performing stretching exercises two to three times a day also can help: Sit on the floor, barefoot, with knees straight. Hook a towel around the toes of the foot. Pull back on the towel, count to 10, and then relax. Repeat several times.
People should have their feet measured before they buy athletic shoes. Foot and ankle surgeons say many people wear shoes that are a half-size too tight. Exercising in tight shoes can cause a neuroma, or a pinched nerve. Patients with this condition say they feel pain in the ball of their foot and tingling in their third and fourth toes.
Achilles tendon pain
Instead of going from couch potato to a high-intensity workout, doctors recommend easing into a new exercise routine. Try to alternate a hard workout one day with an easy workout the next.
New Year’s exercisers who ignore this advice risk Achilles tendonitis, in which the back of the foot becomes tender and painful.
When Achilles tendon pain occurs, foot and ankle surgeons recommend first using RICE therapy (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).