For an easy way to get in shape and stay healthy, consider running.
You don't need much in the way of equipment. You can keep your distance goals simple, or go for the gusto and build up your endurance for longer competitions. To get started, talk with your doctor.
"You need to make sure that you have no underlying medical problems," said Podiatrist Dalia Krakowsky Clausen, D.P.M., Marshfield Clinic Minocqua Center. "After you receive the 'OK' from your primary care provider, go to a specialty running store and get fitted with a good pair of running shoes."
Look for a running shoe that matches your foot type to optimize fit and function. A foot type that tends to be overly flexible, unstable and flatter needs motion control. For a foot that is more rigid and less able to absorb shock, cushioning and flexibility should be the focus.
"Never buy a shoe that feels uncomfortable in any way," said Podiatrist Marilyn Pontone, D.P.M., Marshfield Clinic Minocqua Center. "Even if the brand or style has been recommended, it may not be right for you. Shoes that are tight or loose-fitting can cause problems."
Running isn't unlike other fitness activities you may choose to take up on your own. When too much stress is placed on a body part such as your hips, knees or feet, an overuse injury can happen. You can help prevent an overuse injury from taking you off course. Common running injuries to be aware of include:
- Runner's heel (plantar fasciitis): Stretching before and after your run, proper shoes and orthotics in your shoes may be beneficial for prevention.
- Neuroma (affects the ball of the foot): Choosing running shoes with a wide enough toe box and cushioning can help with injury prevention. Lacing should be comfortable.
- Achilles tendonitis (back of heel tendon soreness): Stretching before and after running can help with prevention. Orthotic support may be beneficial.
- Shin splints (pain up the front or inside of the leg): New runners and those who have over trained are most prone. Avoid abrupt changes in training surfaces or train on softer surfaces.
- Stress fractures (repetitive injury with high-impact activities): Requires medical attention for diagnosis and treatment.
In many cases, when an injury from running occurs it's treatable with a combination of ice, rest, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and orthotics.
"Long-term results from injury can increase your risk of developing arthritis and stress fractures, and you may become more prone to sprains, strains and pain," Dr. Krakowsky Clausen said. "To prevent recurrence, you may need a different style of running shoe."
Even the best running shoes won't last forever. "Try to track how many miles you're putting on your shoes," Dr. Pontone said. "Depending on how athletic you are, your shoes may need replacing after 200 to 400 miles of wear."