Walking is hands-down one of the best forms of exercise, offering a host of potential mental and physical health benefits. It’s easy and—other than the cost of a good pair of walking shoes—free.
“Unfortunately, pain in one of the many joints, muscles and tendons involved in walking can sidetrack even the most determined walker’s routine,” said Dr. Andrew Friedmann, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle surgeries at Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital. “A sore back, aching knees, stiff hip, tender ankle or throbbing toe can make taking a stroll difficult.” Fortunately, most common injuries are treatable.
Friedmann offers information on injuries and conditions that may have an impact on your ability to walk comfortably:
Shin splints. Common in new walkers, shin splints includes pain in the lower leg. It may be caused by over striding or wearing heels that are too high.
Plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis can cause severe pain and occurs when the tissue connecting the heel bone to the base of the toes becomes inflamed. “Walkers who exhibit over-pronation (rolling the foot inward excessively with each step) may be prone to plantar fasciitis,” Friedmann added.
Achilles tendon injuries. The Achilles tendon—the thick tendon that connects the heel and foot to the back of the calf muscles—can become inflamed or even rupture due to repetitive stress, an accident or injury, or improper footwear.
Knee and hip pain. Pain in the knees and/or hips may be the result of arthritis, an accident or injury, inflammation or misalignment of the joints.
Foot pain. Bunions, toe fracture or ill-fitting shoes can contribute to aching feet.
“If you suffer from foot or ankle pain, walking can range from mildly or moderately uncomfortable to extremely agonizing. One of the simplest ways to prevent walking injuries is to wear comfortable, sturdy shoes that have a low heel and flexible sole. Avoid high heels and shoes that are too tight, too loose or are old and have lost their inner support,” Friedmann said.
Friedmann offers other preventive tips:
• Stretch your calves and shins before you start your walk.
• Start off slowly and increase walking speed gradually.
• Watch out for cracks, uneven areas or other obstacles on the sidewalk or walking path.
• Be aware of your surroundings and don’t wear headphones (they can block out the sound of approaching traffic or bicyclists).
• Dress appropriately for the weather.
• Stay hydrated.
• Walk in a safe place, preferably with a walking partner (or take the dog along for company).
The offices of Houston Methodist Orthopedics and Sports at Baytown are located in the state-of-the-art outpatient center (1677 W. Baker Rd, suite 1701). In addition to foot and ankle conditions, our orthopedic surgeons specialize in total hip and knee joint replacements, hand and upper extremity conditions, rotator cuff problems and more. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit houstonmethodist.org/baytown or call 281-427-7400.