It is no secret that walking offers the human body with countless benefits, such as weight management, improved balance and coordination and even a healthier mental state. But did you know that walking has also been proven to aid in the anti-aging process? New research suggests that those who engage in daily moderate exercise such as a brisk walk, experience benefits that could add an extra three to seven years to their life1. For those with chronic or temporary foot pain such as plantar fasciitis, bunions and shin splits, however, walking can often be masked as the catalyst to these conditions rather than the resolution, which prevents individuals from engaging in the exercise. Luckily, there are ways to manage foot pain while walking, making the exercise’s wondrous anti-aging benefits a reality for everyone.
Read our pro-tips for preventing and managing these different foot conditions during your next walk.
- Plantar fasciitis: tenderness on your heel or bottom of the foot
Individuals that experience plantar fasciitis will feel pain in their heel or arch first thing in the morning as a result of the fascia, the band of tissue that runs across the heel bone to the ball of the foot, stiffening up during the night. The most common ways to reduce this pain is to first stretch the arch by pulling toes towards the shin. When walking, choose shoes with a contoured foot bed that are fairly stiff in the middle. Orthotic inserts will also help absorb the impact that comes with walking and the benefits will be tenfold if you intentionally choose soft walking paths such as a dirt road.
- Bunions: pain on the side of your big toe
Bunions occur when the bones in the joint on the outer side of the big or little toe become misaligned. This scenario forms a painful swelling, common in walkers with flat feet and low arches. Wearing shoes that are wider in the toe box will help prevent bunions from forming and if one already exists, cushioning it with OTC pads and ice can provide temporary relief during your walk.
- Shin splints: stiffness or soreness in the shins
People who walk too often, too fast or frequently uphill are susceptible to shin splits, which is a result of the calves repeatedly pulling on weaker muscles near the shin. This can also occur from walking excessively on concrete. The remedy here is not to quit walking, but to cut back temporarily, choosing softer surfaces such as a dirt path to walk on. Other low-impact exercises that offer the exercise’s similar anti-aging benefits include cycling or swimming and can be easily supplemented.
- Stress fracture: pain in the foot or lower leg
If you experience tenderness on a very specific spot on your foot or lower leg, you may have a stress fracture which is a tiny crack in the bone. This occurs from the muscles being overloaded from repetitive strain on the bone rather than the muscle. For this, a temporary leave of absence from walking may need to occur. Within a few weeks however, start building up your stamina by walking only a quarter mile at first. Be sure the interior cushion of your walking shoes is in tip top shape too.
- Neuroma: pain in the ball of your foot or toes
Neuroma is the result of tissue surrounding the nerve near the base of the toes thickening, causing pain or numbness. Up to 10 times more common in women than men, neuroma typically develops between the third or fourth toe. To combat the pain of neuroma during your walk, ensure you are wearing shoes with a spacious toe box or utilize OTC insoles or pads that relieve pressure and absorb shock.
- Achilles tendinitis: pain on the heel and/or lower calf
Walkers that repeatedly flex the foot when walking up and down steep hills can strain the tendon leading to Achilles tendinitis. To reduce this strain on your walk, avoid walking uphill which would increase the strain on the tendon, irritating it and making it weaker. Instead, stick to flat surfaces and only gradually, should you increase your distance and intensity.
So, whether you are in good health or dealing with an ailment, there are ways to enjoy the health benefits that walking promotes. And, even if your normal power walk is momentarily modified to a stroll to accommodate your condition, remember that getting up and walking around for two minutes out of every hour can increase your lifespan by 33 percent, compared to those who do not1. Any bit helps!
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