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  • Writer's pictureMandy Willis

The summer foot pain pandemic

Let’s talk about the summer foot pain pandemic. Naturally, we tend to adopt a form of hibernation mode throughout the winter months – the weather is colder, the days are shorter, and motivation is typically lower. Throw a pandemic-enforced lockdown into the mix and what levels of activity may have otherwise been maintained through recreational sports/gym, are also reduced. Further to this, a large portion of people were confined to working from home (and still are!) – which means less time spent on our feet or commuting by foot to train stations etc, further increasing sedentary behaviours all round.

Fast forward a couple of months (or years, really!), we finally have easing of restrictions, the days are longer, and we occasionally are lucky enough to have a sunny day here in Melbourne, so, the motivation reappears – am I right? You’re also returning to work, incidental steps with commuting/walking around the office are up and you’ve jumped back into your physical activity. All of which are great things! However. This cycle is the perfect storm for foot pain to manifest if we fail to look after ourselves in the process of return.

According to the literature and often what we see here in the clinic, the biggest risk factors for foot pain are as follows:

  • Ill-fitting footwear, including:

    • Runners that are specific to activity/demands of foot being worn for the wrong activity - ie. running in weight lifting shoes, playing tennis in running shoes

    • Casual shoes including thongs, slides, and high heels

    • Work shoes that don’t accommodate for time spent on feet, the surface you work on or the nature of work you’re doing

    • Even prolonged barefoot walking on tiles/floorboards at home

  • Big changes to load/time spent on feet

    • This includes getting back into activities like running, jumping and HIIT in a “too much, too soon” fashion

    • Transitioning from working from home/long periods of sitting down, to back on your feet at work

    • Sudden changes to the frequency, intensity or duration of impact exercises

    • Often a combination of all of the above

Ways to prevent yourself getting caught in the trap of foot pain

  • Progressive overload with return to activity. This means not going too hard too soon. Seek advice from your physiotherapist or trainer on ways to introduce activity back into routine that will avoid acute overload

  • Ensure you’re wearing appropriate footwear for activity and your foot type. Your physiotherapist can assist you with recommendations following a gait assessment to ensure your shoes are tailored to your activity demands and type of foot. This has an abundance of evidence-based support for reducing foot pain.

  • Avoiding prolonged or regular high heel use. This changes where we load through our foot joints and even cause imbalances up the kinetic chain

  • Avoiding thongs or shoes that encourage you to grip when walking. If thongs are your preferred summertime footwear, ensure you’re wearing ones with an appropriate footbed and that are secure to prevent gripping.

  • Avoid walking barefoot, especially on concrete and hard surfaces like floorboards and tiles.

  • Strengthening the intrinsic musculature of the foot in addition to imbalances along the kinetic chain to ensure you’re loading appropriately and reducing risk of injury. Your physiotherapist can assist you with assessment and prescription of these but examples of a few you can try at home are shown below.

Let’s break the cycle of bad habits before it’s too late. Seek advice from your physiotherapist today.

Exercises for treatment and prevention of foot pain

  1. Arch Doming

    • Stand or sit with even weight bearing through left and right feet

    • Starting with right foot, try and elevate roof of arch to create room between the floor and the arch of the foot

    • Keep toes relaxed and in contact with the floor as you think of "pulling"the floor with your foot

    • Ensure you are not rolling your pressure to the outside of the foot/ankle to compensate

    • Start with 6 x 10 sec efforts and progress to 3 x 1 min efforts

  1. 1st Toe Banded Flexions

    • Set foot in neutral position, utilising arch doming technique above

    • Place TheraBand under the pad of the big toe (directly below nailbed)

    • Lift toe into extension (towards your body)

    • Keeping knuckle straight push through pad of toe to bring toe back toward the floor

    • Start with 6 x 10 sec efforts then increase to 3 x 1 min efforts as able

  1. Alternating Toe Lifts

    • Set foot in neutral position, utilising arch doming technique above

    • Keeping foot neutral on the floor

    • Alternate lifting big toe with remaining 4 toes relaxed and in contact with the ground, and keeping big toe relaxed and in contact with the ground whilst lifting outside 4 toes.

    • Ensure you do not lose arch form during alternating lifts

    • Alternate continuously for 3 x 1 min effort

Some exercise photos sourced from our exercise prescription software Physitrack©️.

11 Mephan St

Footscray, VIC 3011

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