Post-Marathon Recovery: How to keep your feet healthy for your next training season

With the St. Jude Marathon behind many Memphis runners, some of you may be suffering post-marathon blues due to common injuries that occur during training season and race day. As a podiatrist, I treat sports injuries in the foot and ankle resulting from overuse activities, such as running a marathon. Some of the most common foot and ankle injuries include stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and tendonitis. Understanding these common foot injuries is the key to preventing them, so that you stay healthy and strong in your next training season.

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures, or hairline fractures, usually occur in the long bones of the foot called metatarsals. Stress fractures occur when repetitive stress on the foot (such as training for a marathon) outpaces the bone’s ability to heal and repair itself. Patients experience a dull to severe pain with activity in the area of the fracture. The treatment consists of rest for four to eight weeks to allow the bone to heal. A cast or walking boot and/or non-weight bearing with crutches may be required for healing a stress fracture.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common overuse injury in the foot when the fascial band supporting your arch becomes inflamed, usually at its attachment to the heel bone. Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, which is usually isolated to the heel but can radiate to the arch. Common symptoms include heel pain with your first step in the morning and pain after long periods of activity. It is treated by rest, wearing supportive shoes with a good arch support or orthotic, taking an anti-inflammatory, stretching, and physical therapy.

Tendonitis

Tendonitis is another overuse injury. The Achilles tendon (at the back of the heel) and the extensor tendons (on top of the foot) are the most common tendons in the foot to develop tendonitis. When a tendon works too hard or in the wrong way for too long, it can become damaged and inflammation occurs. Tendonitis causes pain during activity and swelling in the area of inflammation. Healing may take many weeks. The treatment consists of rest, ice, compression, and anti-inflammatory medication. Often patients must wear a walking boot to immobilize the injured tendon.

Keeping Your Feet Healthy

Stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and tendonitis can definitely ruin your marathon training. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent these injuries before they prevent you from running. Here are some tips for making your next run as successful as possible:

  • Follow a training program, making sure you increase frequency, duration, and intensity of your workouts gradually over the course of weeks or months. A good rule to follow is to increase your mileage about 10% each week until you reach your goal.
  • Wear good quality shoes that are supportive, have good shock absorption, and fit your feet properly. You may also benefit from orthotics or an arch support, especially if you have an abnormal foot structure or have suffered from plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, or a stress fracture. Make sure you get new shoes at least every 500 miles of running.
  • Maintain good core strength. Your “core” includes your abs, glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and oblique muscles. Core strength increases stabilization of the torso, helping with balance and allowing your entire body to run more smoothly and efficiently. Core strength is especially important in long-distance runners to help reduce injuries toward the end of the race when lower extremity muscles become fatigued. Some common core strengthening exercises include planks, windshield wipers, hollow rocks, and superman.
  • Eat a healthy diet! While foods like potatoes and bananas, which are high in potassium and carbohydrates, are great for quick energy during your runs, you also need to be eating foods to stay healthy during training. You need 80-100 grams of protein per day to maintain and build your muscle mass. Important vitamins and minerals that help reduce risk of injury and help maintain your musculoskeletal strength include zinc, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

Following these guidelines will help prevent future foot and ankle injuries so you can enjoy the many winter running series which are now underway! And remember…healthy feet are happy feet!

For more information go to Msfas.com or call Mid-South Foot and Ankle Specialists at 901.309.7700. By: Julie Kate Webster, DPM, FACFAS

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