4 Ways to Prevent Foot and Ankle Pain

by Paul Stuart Cooper, MD, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and MedStar Health at Lafayette Centre
April 12, 2019

When springtime rolls around, many people are ready to take their exercise-related New Year's resolutions to the next level through new exercises or sports. However, this can cause many individuals to start doing things their bodies aren’t prepared for—think of someone going for a five-mile jog after not running all winter.

As a result, many people, ranging from high school students to the elderly, visit us with foot and ankle problems, such as:

  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Inflammation of tendons and ligaments in the foot and ankle
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Severe ankle sprains

The most common complaints include pain, swelling, and difficulty bearing weight. Read on to learn tips to help you prevent foot problems from developing.

When springtime comes around, many people jump into physical activity too fast, which leads to #FootPain and #AnklePain. Learn tips to help you prevent these injuries via @MedStarHealth. #LiveWellHealthy

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How to Avoid Foot and Ankle Problems

1. Wear the Proper Shoes

It’s important to wear shoes that fit your foot properly—especially for people who put fashion before comfort. Make sure you try shoes on in the store, and walk around for more than just a minute or so to see if you experience any discomfort. Everyone’s foot has its own unique profile, and you should take the time to find the shoes that feel best on your feet. Your ultimate goal should be to match comfort and fit with the fashion you’re looking for.

Foot orthotics that go into your shoes also can help alleviate foot and ankle pain in some cases. Speak to your doctor to discover whether these devices are right for you.

2. Stretch Regularly

As we age, we become less flexible. A lack of flexibility can lead to a number of foot and ankle problems such as Achilles tears, ankle sprains, and plantar fasciitis. It’s important to maintain flexibility by working out and taking the time to stretch every day. A simple 10-minute stretching exercise each day could help you avoid foot and ankle problems related to flexibility. Some common exercises we recommend include:

  • Gastroc towel stretch: Sit down with your legs straight in front of you and loop a towel around your feet. While holding the two ends of the towel, gently pull on the towel, lifting your foot toward you. Hold the position for 30 seconds and do three repetitions.
  • Gastroc uni standing stretch: Stand facing the wall and place your hands on the wall. Step forward with your uninvolved foot, leaning hips towards the wall. Keep rear leg straight with your heel on the floor. Hold the position for 30 seconds and do three repetitions.
  • Soleus standing stretch: Stand facing the wall and place your hands on the wall for support. Place your left foot in front of the right. Slowly bend your knees while keeping your heels on the floor, until you feel the stretch. Repeat with your right leg in front. Hold the position for 30 seconds and do three repetitions.

3. Listen to Your Body

It’s important to listen to your body as you exercise. I often see patients who have picked up a new activity, such as running, martial arts, or basketball, and within a few weeks, they develop a foot or ankle problem they’ve never experienced before. It’s important to gradually ease yourself into new activities to avoid setbacks. If you constantly feel foot or ankle pain after a new activity, work on improving your flexibility or consider switching to a different activity. If you have discomfort that goes away within a day or two, that’s normal. But if you’re limping after a couple of days, you may be exceeding what your body can handle for that particular activity.

4. Work on Your Balance

Similar to flexibility, balance declines as we age—especially for those over the age of 70. Poor balance increases your risk of falling and developing foot and ankle problems. One common exercise to improve balance is a one-legged balance—this is when you take turns picking up one foot with your knee facing forward or to the side and hold the position for 10 to 20 seconds. Try doing four reps on each foot. Speak to your doctor to learn more activities that can improve your balance.

It’s common to develop foot and ankle problems, especially as you age. Make sure you use these tips to help you prevent any avoidable issues down the road.

Are you suffering from a foot or ankle injury?
Don’t ignore it – click below to learn how our orthopedic experts can help you at the Foot and Ankle Clinic at MedStar Health at Lafayette Centre.

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Category: Living Well, Staying Active     Tags: Exerciseorthopedicspreventing injuryWellness