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Sunday, November 21, 2010

I have been having arch pains in both feet, after running

Hi Gary,

I am currently looking to train for the Oxfam Trailwalk in April 2011. I have been having arch pains in both feet, after running around a 5 km block. They have been coming on near the end of the run about 50% of the time recently. I have proper Asics running shoes (which were neutral), but I'm wondering if they don't support my arches properly?

As a bit of background, my mother also has occasional arch pains in her feet, so it may be something genetic. Every few months or so, I get random pains in my arches just from normal day to day activities. Generally, if my arches are feeling sore, I run my feet over a curved wooden roller and the pain tends to go away straight away. Another factor, which I don't know if it is related or not, is that I am bow-legged.
However, I am concerned with what will happen to my arches over the 100km walk if they do not have correct support. I don't want them to compress. Plus I don't want to be in pain from the first 10km.

What do you recommend?

I am thinking of going to a podiatrist, however am also keen to see if there are other solutions or cheaper options than actual orthotics, if that is what is recommended.

Thanks for your help

If you find that the foot muscles are getting excessively tired during exercise then it is likely that the problem lies in your calf muscles.  The muscles of the calf support the foot via a series of strong tendons.  If the muscles in the calf which activate these tendons are weak and tire quickly, then the intrinsic muscles of the feet will be excessively stressed and will tire quickly.

Seldom are these problems genetic.  It is more likely that you were born with the same nutrient profile as your mother and you may have adopted some of her habits, including posture which can affect foot health.  A stooped posture, for example, may cause the arches of the foot to collapse inwards.  This is best corrected by standing up straight, keeping the feet straight, rather than splayed out and please practice the exercise in the video that is above.

It is possible that your shoes are too tight and thus restricting blood flow.  This may be exacerbated by wearing thick sports socks such as Thorlos which can cut off circulation to the sole of the foot.  Experiment with thin socks and lacing so that the forefoot is a little loose while still snug at the ankle.

Orthotics are a complete waste of money for the vast majority of cases of foot and leg pain and do little other than give temporary relief at the cost of longterm dependency.  In fact, they can cause more harm by transferring the foot-strike shock wave further up the leg, causing ankle, calf knee and even hip pain.

Orthotics may cause more injury by transferring the foot-strike shock wave further up the legs

The lower leg is a marvel of biological engineering and we are arrogant to feel we could do a better job than Mother Nature.  Rather than create a dependence on crutch-like orthotics, it is better to assist the legs with doing their work better than ever before.  This is achieved by doing the foot exercise above to strengthen and rebalance the muscles of the lower legs and feet; Get about barefoot as often as possible, including walking in sand and on grass; Ensure a nutrient rich diet as guided by a Hair Tissue Analysis; And consider fitting a pair of Formthotics Shock Stop inner soles.

Finally, ensure that your training programme has rest days between long or tiring training sessions and make sure there is a very, very gradual build-up over several months.  You must give your body, including feet, time to adapt to the increasing workloads.  Always have alternative activities such as swimming and cycling interspersed over the week between walking.  If ever you feel an injury developing, switch entirely to these alternatives until healed.  This way there is no interruption in your overall buildup of fitness.
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