Get in Shape Without the Pain: Q&As for Common Summer Foot Problems
Posted by Jenn F. on Friday, May 20th, 2016
Our own Dr. Josef J. Geldwert has seen every foot problem you can imagine (and some you probably can’t). With 43 years of experience as an NYC foot and ankle specialist, he’s aided the recovery of Olympic athletes, professional tennis players, marathon runners, and even served as the podiatrist for many local sports teams, including the NY Power, NY Liberty, NY Magic and NY Lizards. But coming out of the winter months, pro athletes aren’t the only ones training – many New York natives hit Central Park and seek a fresh start. If you’re planning an active summer, Dr. Geldwert shares his insight on a few common summer foot problems.
Q: How can someone with diabetes stay active without foot injury?
A: While any foot injury can be serious, you have to practice extra vigilance if you have type 2 diabetes. Foot injury is the leading cause of hospitalizations among diabetics. Each year, there are roughly 86,000 lower limb amputations among diabetics in America.
I don’t mean to sound alarmist – not every blister, ulcer or callus will amount to serious injury – but even minor sore spots have difficulty healing due to diabetics’ poor foot circulation. It’s essential that patients do all they can to prevent injuries from exercise.
If you’re a type 2 diabetic, you can take preventative action by keeping your blood sugar in check. Elevated glucose levels can cause nerve damage and loss of sensation in the feet known as “peripheral neuropathy,” making it harder to notice injuries as they happen. If you need more motivation, research also tells us that high blood sugar makes cell walls more rigid, slowing the flow of nutrients and the release of hemoglobin, which starves the body of oxygen and makes injuries heal slower.
I also recommend being professionally fitted for the right type of athletic shoe (which should be replaced twice a year) and focusing on activities such as elliptical trainer workouts, stationary cycling, and swimming – anything that’s less punishing on your feet.
Q: What can beginner runners do to protect their feet from injury?
A: This time of year, I treat lots of stress fractures, shin splints, tendinitis and plantar fasciitis (heel pain). These are classic signs of overtraining, as people move out of a sedentary winter lifestyle. Honestly, signing up for a gym membership, a swim class, or anything else that lets you stay active all year is probably the best way to prevent a lot of these injuries.
But we can’t turn back the clock, so if you’re hoping to get in shape this summer, I always advise patients to get a new pair of shoes first. If you plan to run three or more days a week, get running shoes. If you plan on mostly walking, get highly cushioned walking shoes. If you play any dedicated sport at least three times a week, you should get a separate pair of shoes for that particular sport – they usually offer customized support in the side walls or heels or arches. If you’re mixing it up every day of the week, cross-trainers should be fine. Regardless of the shoes you end up with, make sure they’re fitted right – sized for length and width. People don’t realize it, but foot size and shape change over time based on a variety of factors. Also, lace your shoes up right.
One more thing: new runners should begin with low mileage and an easy pace. RunningInjuryFree.org has a good plan to follow, which begins with walking 30 minutes three times a week and gradually adds bursts of running to your routine until you reach up to 24 miles of running a week. Generally, you don’t want to increase your time or pace more than 10% each week.
Q: How can I prevent bunions from getting worse?
A: Finding the right shoe is critical if you have bunion problems. You want the widest possible toe box. This gives your bunion space so it doesn’t rub against the shoe. There are a number of padding options you can also add, but again, you need a shoe that has room for them. Many of my patients like the Asics brand for wider running and walking shoes.
As with diabetics, any kind of low-impact activity – like swimming, cycling, or elliptical work – will be easier. Since repetitive stress on your foot can make a bunion worse, it’s also wise to vary your types of activity as much as possible. After you exercise, I recommend icing and elevating to keep swelling (and pain) down. NSAID medication can also help.
We often train patients with bunions to do a few simple stretches and exercises (in addition to these activities) that help strengthen the foot and maintain proper alignment, so I encourage anyone with bunions in the NYC area to stop by one of our offices. Our Manhattan center is right near Central Park.
NYC Sports Doctors
If you have further questions, you can contact Dr. Geldwert in one of his two offices at 212-996-1900 (Manhattan) or 914-328-3400 (Westchester), or stop by in person to make an appointment. He and the rest of our team are available to assess both acute trauma and chronic pain injuries. Here’s to an active and pain-free summer!
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.