The stress sports puts on your feet

What part of our foot strikes the floor first in your sport, the toe or the heel? Are you a basketball player, a contra dancer, racket ball enthusiast or a jogger? Do you train with a bicycle, the stairmaster or a rowing machine? Do you run on cement, uneven dirt or on the side of a hill? This isn't about your ankles; it's about your feet.

There are many small bones in the foot and extra stress is placed on them when your foot includes a high or low arch. When you run you come down on your heel first then roll to the toe and push off again. The same motion happens when you walk. Your shoes should be extra cushioned in the heel area for your specific sport, and they should be fitted for high or low arch supports. You can't run for very long without injury if your shoes are not properly adjusted to fit your feet.

If you are one of the masses holding down a spot in an aerobics class, you will be using your toes first to cushion the foot on its downward foot strike, rolling from toe to heel. That is why most classroom aerobics will use forward, back and sometimes side movements to compensate for the stress on the toe area. For this sort you also need specific shoes. The extra cushion should be in the toe, with more of a soft pliable foot sole to roll to the heel without aggravating the Achilles tendon.

Basketball and racket sports are more random - lots of sudden unexpected movements that require you to be able to control all foot movement. A cross trainer shoe is often the answer, they have a bit more lateral support so your ankle doesn't twist as easily and the cushion is throughout the whole sole of the shoe. These shoes tend to sometimes be a bit heavier and less pliable.

The stress of any new sort, done repeatedly during a given period of time, will eventually tell you about your weak link. Six weeks into fitness is just about the right time to suffer foot pain. When your neck hurts, or your shoulder, you isolate the movement in that area until it returns to normal. You can't do that with your feet. So any foot injury will separate you from your sport for a much longer period of time.

If you started your sport in January you can probably complete 30 minutes without wilting, but your feet still will be a little behind. Bone structure takes a while to thicken and strengthen from weight bearing exercise moves like aerobics, and jogging. Give your feet another month to catch up to your heart before you pour on the gas. Until then, if you already have a few sore sports, ease up, use low impact moves for a while. Otherwise you will only continue to escalate the damage and lengthen any healing time.

• Jerry Vance is the owner of Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through the Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Carson City Senior Citizens Center.


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