As we approach the end of the year and think about our upcoming new years resolutions, we may be thinking about renewing that commitment to go to the gym or the exercise studio. Or, we may want to keep active as the holidays are approaching, and one way to do that is to increase the number of visits to the gym or increase the amount of classes we are taking. But how do you keep your feet healthy when partaking in these classes? There are a few things to keep in mind.
How do I keep my feet healthy when I go to the gym? If you are at an exercise studio, whether it be a traditional gym with free weights and machines, or a spin studio, or a barre or yoga class, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, remember to wear the appropriate shoes for the class. For example, there are are cross fit classes where you want to make sure that you have a sturdy cross training shoe that has padding in the forefoot and heel for the high impact burpees and jumping jacks, but also medial and lateral stability for the side to side lunges.
Same goes for shoes that you would wear on a court, such as volleyball shoes or tennis shoes that have an emphasis on stability that allows the foot to be stable and not slide side to side during these activities. In a spin class, check if there are cages on the pedals or if the studio has clips to clip in and clip out.
If clipping in is possible, for a spin class, invest in the spinning shoes. The spinning shoes are more snug than regular gym shoes that would be used with pedals with a cage. No matter how tight your cage on the gym shoe attaches to the pedal, it cannot simulate wearing a spin shoe. Spinning shoes have a stiffer sole, and the tighter fit allows a more efficient pedal stroke. So it is worth it to invest in the spinning shoes for a spinning class. If you have Medical Grade orthotics or if you have been prescribed custom orthotics for your gym shoes, by all means, wear them! They are important in keeping you pain free.
The custom orthotics are made to hold your foot in a biomechanically neutral position, in order for your tendons and ligaments and joints to be aligned and function efficiently. Orthotics will help prevent injuries and prevent pain.
If you are in a yoga or barre class, then shoes are not recommended at all. If you have a foot issue that needs shoe support, then speak to the instructor before the class, however yoga and barre emphasize using the tendons in your toes to ground and balance the body. In this case, some people prefer not to go barefoot, and there are special socks with gripping material on the bottom surface that allow the foot to hold firm and prevent slippage. Going barefoot has its benefits, however if you do, be sure to stay on your yoga mat that you know you have cleaned. Going barefoot on floors may put you in danger of catching a virus such as the one that causes verucas (warts) or even a fungus that may cause athlete's foot.
These do not have anything with hygiene, as these viruses and fungus as everywhere. However if you are prone to it or susceptible to it, then going barefoot provides another opportunity for these to affect your feet. So if you choose, then take care by wearing socks or only going barefoot on you own mat.
Once you have the shoe gear taken care of, then consider your socks. For activities that are high impact and cause a lot of sweating of the feet, make sure to change your socks daily. We recommend a sock with a cotton blended with a material that will wick sweat away from the foot, because a sock that stays damp may cause more potential for friction of the skin causing blisters to form. Increase moisture against the skin is also a perfect environment where bacteria and fungus can thrive. For these reasons, stay away from all cotton socks and choose a sock with a blend.
One way to prevent foot injuries is to train smartly. It is tempting to be so excited for a new class or a new gym that you go all out, and then what happens? You overtrain and then your foot is in pain. It is very important to choose an appropriate class. We were all beginner at some point! So if you have to take that beginner class, although it may look slow, it is important to make sure you can easily and safely complete the beginning classes to make sure your feet can handle it. It is very important to follow a plan. If you have trainers or coaches at the gym, it ok to tap them as a resource, especially if there is new equipment that you are not familiar with. If you don't have access to a personal trainer, then you can join a free fitness plan at a local park district or even at some of the specialty shoe stores in the community.
Many have a "couch to 5 K" training plan or similar. This is a great way to run with a group. Or, you may even be able to look up online at free resources that walk you through a training plan. By following a plan, you will prevent getting hurt and keep your feet and ankles in good shape to keep going and prevent injuries.
If you feet and ankles feel that they need a break from the one repetitive exercise, then consider cross training. This allows your body to use different muscles and not overuse certain other muscles. By cross training with a non-weightbearing activity, such as swimming, this allows your body to get a cardiovascular and at the same time going easy on your joints.
One of the best ways to prevent injury is to hydrate adequately before and after your exercise classes. Be sure to drink at least 10-20 ounces 1 to 2 hours before your workout, then 8 ounces 15 minutes before you start, and 8 ounces for every 15 minutes of exercise. This of course varies from person to person, and varies on how much you sweat and exert yourself. However keeping hydrated will prevent injuries from happening. In addition, it is important to stretch before and after you exercise to prevent injuries in your feet and ankles.
Dynamic stretches help warm up the muscles and tendons, and when your muscles and tendons are limber, this also prevents injury. So taking the time to stretch before and after an exercise class makes a difference in your foot and ankle health.
Most importantly - listen to your body! You are competing with yourself, no one else. When you decide to exercise in that gym class or in that yoga class, you have to be in tune with our body and with the instructor. If you feel that you are up to it, then by all means enjoy the class! If not, then taking a few days off may be what your body needs.