For many of us, summer is a time to increase our physical outdoor activity. Recently, I was approached by a group of health editors on the topic of foot “heaviness” as a common complaint amongst women who are boosting their exercise and running routines. Here are some of my thoughts on how to keep you moving, and to stay light on your feet this summer!
- Keep the flow. If you are used to sitting most of the day, especially with your legs crossed, you could be impeding circulation. At work, if you are sedentary, change positions, move around and stretch whenever given the opportunity. When starting running, ease into it. Warm up first and then begin a light jog before picking up your pace to a full run. Other issues, including diabetes, smoking, and varicose veins are also contributing factors that may cause pain in legs and calf. See your medical doctor for an exam to make sure there are no underlying medical problems.
- Keep it cool. This is more of a general rule for running in the summer. Wear light colors, sweat-wicking materials, and avoid running during peak hours. Try to run as much as possible in the shade, and don’t forget the sunscreen! Urban running is usually hotter due to asphalt and pavements. Opt to run in parks or areas with trees and grass when you can. After your run, do a light jog to cool down, as stopping too quickly can lead to heat exhaustion or possible fainting.
- Stay hydrated. Increased heat means loss of fluids and electrolytes, which can lead to muscle cramping. Also, a vitamin or mineral deficiency such as not enough magnesium, iron, or folate in your body can cause a tired, heavy feeling. Drink plenty of fluids and take a multivitamin regularly. Avoid alcohol, and don’t forget although caffeine is a stimulant, it is also a diuretic, which can dehydrate you before a run.
- Move efficiently. Running should be smooth and efficient. If your feet pronate (meaning they roll in when you strike the ground) or if you supinate (roll out when your strike the ground), you may not be as moving as efficiently as you could be, making your feet tired. Try running with a short stride and quick cadence to help facilitate movement. Change sneakers approximately every 400 to 500 miles. See a podiatrist or visit a running store for a gait analysis, which will monitor how your feet hit the ground when you run and can help you choose a proper pair of sneakers for your stride. For severe gait issues, talk to your doctor about a foot exam to see if you should be fitted for custom, molded orthotics that will help correct your form.