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Taking care of your FEET

As many of you know, I am a huge advocate and fan of high intensity interval training. I love creating and teaching explosive exercise circuits combined with multi-functional exercises to target multiple areas of the body all at the same time. More bang for your buck, right? The benefits of my personal classes (Haley's Bootcamp and Haley's Cardio Kickboxing) along with other workouts I promote like 21 Day Fix Extreme, Insanity, P90X, Turbo Fire, etc are endless. A few of these benefits include increased cardiopulmonary efficiency and endurance, strengthened heart and lungs, improved circulation, lowered cholesterol levels, stress and anxiety reduction and of course weight loss and muscle gain. But it is a strenuous form of exercise, and thorough preparation, wise choice of routines, proper equipment, and consideration of floor surfaces are essential to avoid injury.

Because these classes also require quick lateral movements, jumping, agility and speed exercises for extended periods of time, proper care of the foot plays a crucial part in keeping the entire body fit to avoid injury and enjoy your fit physique and efficient heart and respiratory system.

Proper shoes are crucial to successful, injury-free exercise. Shoes should provide sufficient cushioning and shock absorption to compensate for pressure on the foot many times greater than found in walking. They must also have good medial-lateral (side-to-side) stability. Impact forces from exercise can reach up to six times the force of gravity, which is transmitted to each of the 26 bones in the foot.

"Because of the many side-to-side motions, shoes need an arch design that will compensate for these forces, and sufficiently thick upper leather or strap support to provide forefoot stability and prevent slippage of the foot and lateral shoe "breakup." Make sure shoes have a toe box that is high enough to prevent irritation of toes and nails.

The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine has long held the position that sports specific shoes are the best. The requirements of aerobics are for shoes that provide stability for side to side motion and are also supportive while permitting both twisting and turning." (American Academy of Pediatric Sports Medicine)

Running shoes (like Brooks or Asics) lack the necessary lateral stability and lift the heel too high to be considered acceptable for cross-training classes like Bootcamp. Running shoes are not recommended by podiatric physicians for this type of workout. I personally suffered from plantar fasciitis years ago when I was over-training AND had the wrong footwear. I was teaching 7 - 8 classes per week (two a day some days) PLUS going for a 2 - 3 mile jog (this was not healthy). After a month of severe pain, I finally took a friends advice and went to the Gingerbread Man Running store (on Philadelphia street) for their professional opinion. The owner of the store assisted me and had me walk multiple times so he could assess my walking pattern. He asked what type of exercise I did and how often. I explained the circuits we do in Bootcamp and he recommended the Mizuno Wave Inspire. Once I started using these shoes my feet felt SO much better! I had the support I needed for the lateral and speed movements we do in class, plus offered proper support and cushion for my specific foot. I now try to make it a priority to get new shoes every few months for class. I know that by investing in the proper equipment I am saving my feet, joints and bones for down the road! I also cut back on doubling up classes and running. I learned to listen to my body, fuel it right and treat it well.

Prevention of Injuries

In a physically challenging sport such as Bootcamp and Cardio Kickboxing, injuries are common, and often involve the foot, ankle, and lower leg and knee. Physicians say most injuries from these types of classes result from improper shoes or overuse of muscles through too vigorous a regimen (over-training).

  • New, properly tied, well-fitted class-specific shoes will address the first problem, and common sense will help the with the other. The key to injury prevention is proper conditioning, which will provide muscles the flexibility, endurance and strength needed to avoid injury.

  • Before any workout it is important that you engage in proper stretching and a proper warm up. Getting your muscles, joints and tendons warm and ready to move in all directions is crucial to avoiding injury.

  • Drink adequate water to avoid dehydration during workouts which can cause nausea, dizziness, muscle fatigue, and cramping -- all of which could lead to poor form resulting in injury.

  • Don't under estimate the importance of the cool-down period. It burns off lactic acid (which makes muscles feel tired) and adrenalin, while keeping blood from pooling in the extremities. It also allows your warm muscles to stretch and become more flexible so that in subsequent workout sessions you have the flexibility to perform more efficiently.

  • While fitness professionals exercise vigorously six times a week, it's best to start slower. Although it varies by the individual, it's safe to start exercising twice a week for several weeks, then gradually increase to a maximum of five times a week.

  • Remember to pace yourself, and listen to your body. If you feel pain, stop. Don't attempt to exercise through pain, or you may aggravate an acute injury into a chronic or even permanent one. If you continue to be bothered by pain more than 24 hours after exercising, see a physician.

You've taken the first step to gain control over your health by participating in an exercise class. Now, be sure to do it the smart and safe way by following general guidelines like these to ensure a safe and effective workout without injury or pain! Your body -- especially your feet -- will thank you!

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