7 Walking Injury Hotspots

An intense walk can be uncomfortable, but it should never hurt.

Instead of letting pain slow you down, use these tips to treat 7 of the most common walking injuries.

Heel Pain

Tenderness on the heel or bottom of the foot, such as the ‘plantar fascia’ tissue running from your heel bone to the ball of your foot.

It may be down to overworking, especially with the wrong footwear, or an increase in your normal walking routine.

Those with high arches or people who walk on the insides of their feet are more prone. If untreated, it can lead to painful, bony growths.

The Fix

Loosen the tissue through stretching. Also, try resting your heel, using an ice pack and taking anti-inflammatory painkillers.

Wearing well-fitted shoes that support and cushion your feet, or using supportive devices or strapping is also helpful. If the pain grows worse, speak to your doctor or podiatrist.

Blisters, Bunions, Corns And Calluses

Blisters are often caused by friction from tight shoes and sweaty socks.

Bunions, corns and calluses may also be caused by ill-fitting shoes. Bunions form on the side of the big toe, bringing painful swelling.

Corns and calluses are thickened layers of the skin, affecting toes and feet. Walkers with flat feet, low arches, or arthritis may be more prone.

Watch out for popping blisters. When you puncture the skin, you open up the potential for bacteria and that can make the problem worse.

The Fix

For a minor blister, a bandage is often a simple solution to continue walking. For a larger blister, switch to another activity until it heals. Use blister creams and keep pressure off that area

For bunions, try over-the-counter painkillers, bunion pads, and special insoles to relieve pressure or ice pads to numb the area.

For corns and calluses, cream applications are again the best treatment. In all three cases, properly-fitted footwear will help, ensuring you have enough room around the toes.

Achilles Pain And Tendonitis

Pain in the back of the heel and lower calf could signal problems with your Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel, possibly irritated by over-walking, especially if you don’t build up to it.

Repeat flexing when tackling steep hills or uneven terrain also strains the tendon, triggering lower leg pain.

The Fix

Reduce your distance or try activities like swimming or upper-body strength training.

Avoid walking uphill. Calf stretches may prevent problems. In severe cases, limit or stop walking and use ice packs to reduce inflammation. On returning to walking, stick to flat surfaces, gradually increasing distances and intensity.

Ingrown Toenails

Soreness or swelling on the sides of the toes from when the corners or sides of your toenails grow sideways, pressurising soft tissues, even growing into the skin.

Ingrown toenails are more likely if shoes are too short or too tight. They can lead to bleeding under the nail, and your nail might eventually fall off.

The Fix

Ensure there is enough wiggle room in your shoes, maybe going up a half size, as your feet tend to swell during exercise.

Use toenail clippers to cut straight across instead of rounding corners. Those who push off from the toes can cause problems. You can use special inserts. If symptoms grow worse, it may be infected, so see your doctor or a podiatrist.

Runner’s knee

Every time your shoe strikes the ground, your knee feels it. Eventually, your kneecap may start to rub against your femur (the bone that connects your knee to your hip), causing cartilage damage and tendinitis.

Walkers with a misaligned kneecap, prior injury, weak or imbalanced thigh muscles, soft knee cartilage, or flat feet, or those who simply walk too much, are at greater risk of runner’s knee. The knee pain usually strikes when you’re walking downhill, doing knee bends, or sitting for a long stretch of time.

The Fix

Try another type of exercise until the knee pain subsides, typically 8 to 12 weeks.

Do some quad strengtheners to help align the kneecap and strengthen up your support around your knee. Sit with back against a wall, right leg bent with foot flat on floor and left leg straight in front of you. Contract quads and lift left leg, keeping foot flexed. Repeat 12 times; work up to three sets per leg.

While standing, place a looped band around both feet and sidestep 12 to 15 times to right, then back to left. When walking or hiking downhill, take smaller steps and try not to bend your knees too much, or try walking sideways to give your side hip muscles a workout.

Lower-Back Strain

Repetitive movement can make existing lower-back injuries worse, with tendons and ligaments around the spine overworked.

If you’re not used to walking for distance, your technique and form can make a difference as you progress. Over-striding is one way you can stress the lower back as you fatigue, especially if you have a pre-existing injury.

A lower-back strain happens when the ligaments, tendons or muscles of the lower back are stretched too much, causing small tears in the tissue.

Arthritis or inflammation of surrounding nerves also causes pain.

The Fix

Tight hamstrings and weak core muscles are normally the culprit.

As you walk, engage your abs, pulling your stomach back. Avoid bending at the waist. Keep your spine straight and lean the whole body slightly forward from the ankles.

Short ‘pull’ exercises may help too. Cross your arms at the wrists in front of your waist and raise your arms as if pulling a shirt up over your head. Grow taller as you reach, then lower your arms, letting your shoulders drop into place.

Shin Splints

Pain and inflammation along the inner edge of the shinbone (or tibia) is often diagnosed as shin splints.

The sharp or dull pain can occur both during and after exercise, causing problems for muscles and surrounding tissues, and creating inflammation as strong calves pull repeatedly on weaker muscles near the shin.

Those who walk too much too soon or too fast too soon, or people who climb a lot of hills or walk on concrete tend to overwork the shin muscles. Severe cases could also be down to stress fractures of the tibia. Again, incorrect footwear is a common cause.

The Fix

Better techniques and proper tailored footwear will have an impact. If you’re still suffering, cut back on walking for three to eight weeks to give tissue time to heal. If it hurts, avoid it.

Try anti-inflammatory medication or cold packs to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Instead, keep in shape by cross-training such as swimming or cycling.

Remember: When in doubt, rest and have your pain checked out. It’s better to spend a little time and money seeing the doctor than to be sidelined for months by an injury that you could have prevented or minimized.

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