podiatry

3 QUESTIONS FOR A SPORTS PODIATRIST

Because the feet are an athlete’s best accessory

When it comes to fine-tuning your body parts, the feet are easily ignored. But no matter how you work out, you use them every day. What's more, giving them a little TLC can ward off injuries and strengthen your running routine. 

So, in our latest installment of the "3 Questions For a Doctor" series, we spoke with Brian Fullem, a sports podiatrist in Clearwater, FL and author of The Runner's Guide to Healthy Feet and Ankles. Here, a surprising cause of foot injuries, what goes into picking the best sneaker, and more.

What’s the most common reason athletes end up in your office?

The most common complaint is heel pain. Most often it is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue on the bottom of the foot which helps to support the arch. When it is injured, people will have more pain during their first steps in the morning at the attachment in the heel. Stretching the Achilles and calf muscles will relieve some of the tension on the plantar fascia and help the injury get better. Picking up a towel with your toes can help to strengthen the foot. Balance on one foot for one to two minutes a day, building up to being able to do it with your eyes closed. Closing your eyes when doing balance exercises makes the tendon work harder because eyesight helps your balance.

What’s the number one thing you wish athletes knew about running injuries?

Most are from overuse. If you took a break from running during the winter, then I recommend starting from scratch this spring. Start with running just two to three miles every other day. Also, the core muscles help support and control the motions of the foot and leg. If the core is weak, the Achilles and other tendons will be under more stress and at a greater risk for injury. So, spend more time doing exercises like planks and your feet will thank you.

Foot posture, comfort, brand name—what matters most when picking a sneaker?

When choosing a new pair of running shoes, the motion of the foot (pronation versus supination) is not as important as the comfort of the shoe being tried on. (Pronation means the foot rolls in towards the midline of the body and supination means the foot is rolling out the opposite way.) Dr. Benno Nigg—the leading researcher in the world on running shoes and orthotics—published a great paper stating that comfort is the most important factor in choosing a shoe. If the shoe is more comfortable, runners experience fewer injuries.