The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Have You Been Out of Commission? 5 Tips for Returning to a Workout Following Foot Pain

Posted by on Tuesday, February 25th, 2014


Foot pain has dogged many an athlete, whether professional or amateur. Plantar fasciitis heel pain is just one of the many issues treated by podiatrists, but a whopping 2 million Americans are treated for this condition each year. On top of that, people suffer from nerve pain, flattened arches, arthritis, stress fractures, and tendonitis.

The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reports that 75% of Americans will suffer some sort of foot pain over the course of a lifetime. While most conditions are treatable without surgery, patients are often unsure about how to resume regular activities without reinjuring themselves. Here are five tips for getting back on your feet following a foot injury.

Tip #1: Invest in well-fitting, quality shoes.

By the time holes develop in shoes, they are already well past their prime. Take a look at the bottom of your soles to see if there are any noticeable wear patterns. The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends replacing walking shoes every 300 to 600 miles or every six months. People who run or walk more than 60 minutes a day may need to replace their shoes even sooner.

“Good shoes don’t necessarily mean the most expensive shoes,” says Dr. Geldwert, a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City. “You want a shoe that provides structural support along the arch and will not bend in half. Look for a roomy toe-box, with a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe. You also want a good heel cushion and adjustable laces. Try shoes on at the end of the day, when your feet are most swollen.”

Tip #2: Consider orthotic shoe inserts.

Certain types of foot pain benefit greatly from the addition of a customized insole, molded to an individual’s foot. People with plantar fasciitis, ankle pain, flat feet, overpronation, metatarsal injuries, calluses, and neuromas are all good candidates for orthoses. For some people, even an over-the-counter product can alleviate generalized foot pain enough to get back to exercising again.

pick up marbles with toes
Picking up marbles with your toes is a great way to strengthen and rehabilitate the foot.
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Tip #3: Exercise the feet.

According to TIME Magazine, stretching “doesn’t prevent injuries, and actually impairs strength and speed in some athletes.” Stretching in general is not the magic bullet for pain it was once thought to be. However, there is still value in physical therapy and targeting painful areas of the body with specialized exercises. For plantar fasciitis, rolling a tennis ball along the arch of the foot for 30 minutes of a day can relieve residual pain following treatment. Heel cord stretches, calf raises, towel stretches, ankle range of motion movements, marble pick-ups, towel curls, and ankle dorsiflexion / plantar flexion exercises are all recommended by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.    

Tip #4: Aim for a gradual return to activity.

Many people injure themselves trying to jump right back to where they were before the foot injury. Runners should aim to walk for 30 minutes pain-free before attempting to run. If you’ve missed two weeks of running, return to 50 percent of your usual mileage. If you’ve missed a month, resume at 30 percent of your usual mileage. If you’ve missed six to eight weeks or more, start off with a leisurely walk/jog, alternating 10 minutes of each. Start with one lap and gradually work your way up to eight laps. Avoid beginning speed work until you are back to running at least 75 percent of your usual distance.

prevent overuse injury
Swimming is an ideal cross-training exercise that works the entire body and reduces the likelihood of developing an overuse injury.
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Tip #5: Cross train to strengthen the entire body.

Foot pain may arise due to discrepancies in other parts of the body. For instance, plantar fasciitis pain can be helped by strengthening the calves and hamstrings. Cross-training is a great way to boost overall muscle strength and body fitness. Activities like swimming, elliptical trainers, and stationary bikes are nice, easy places to start, without overtaxing the feet.

If you are experiencing foot pain and it’s affecting your mobility, perhaps it’s time to have a professional take a look. At The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, we have doctors and trainers who can examine your specific situation, and work with you in deciding the best course of action. We’ll also help you figure out the ideal methods for getting back to your workout routine while also maintaining the best care for your feet. Contact our offices today to schedule a consultation.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. 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.