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Shin Splints and Heel Spurs - Preventing Walking Injuries

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Updated April 09, 2012

The good news is that walking results in far fewer injuries than sports such as running. The bad news is that injury can happen. Ted L. Forcum, DC, DACBSP, spoke to the walkers at the Ero-Fit Racewalk Retreat about common walking injuries.

Prevention of injuries: There are several things you can do, most of them things your Mom told you long ago:

Proper footwear: Go to a real fit-expert and get the right shoes for YOUR feet. Many injuries are caused by over-pronation, which can be corrected by today's running shoes. Many injuries are caused by wearing old, dead shoes - you need to replace them every 500 miles. Shoes are cheaper than medical care!

Stretching: Tight, cold muscles are a set-up for injury. Warm up and then gently stretch the muscles you plan to use, especially if walking for speed.

Nutrition: Follow the good-old food pyramid, eat a variety of foods, and take a simple and cheap multi-vitamin.

Compensate for your anatomy:Know your body, correct your walking posture.

Ice: Always ice an injury or strain to keep inflammation from destroying tissue.

Sleep: You need sleep to give your body time to build muscles and repair damage.

Gradual changes in training:Increase your distance 10% a week. Don't be a weekend warrior.

Proper form: Too much lean, looking down, swinging your arms up past your breastbone -- all can lead to strain and injury. Walk tall with chin up and eyes forward, arms bent 90 degrees and swinging up no further than your breastbone.

Shin Splints
This is the most common condition new walkers experience, especially if they are trying to walk fast. This is the pain in the lower leg that stops when you slow down or stop. Causes and corrections:

Overstriding: you throw your leg out too far in front, unnaturally lengthening your stride and excessively dorsiflexing your ankle when your foot strikes. You may also feel this on downhills due to the same factor. To correct this, slow down and shorten your stride. Concentrate on pushing off with your back foot rather than extending your front leg so far with each stride - your lead foot should strike closer to your body, roll through the step and push off with your toe. This will increase your power and speed of stride and get rid of the overstriding habit. Your extension should be in back, not in front.

High Heel: It can be made worse by wearing shoes with a high heel (compared to the forefoot). The best walking shoes will have very little difference between the heel height and the forefoot height.

Over-pronation: Foot rolls inward excessively on each step. To correct, get fitted by an expert with motion control running shoes.

Heel Spurs/Plantar fasciitis
There is an epidemic of plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. It is that pain in the bottom of your foot that especially hurts first thing in the morning when you try to get out of bed and stand on it, or after sitting for awhile. It is caused by wounding the tough fascia on the bottom of your foot.

Over-pronation: Foot rolls inward excessively on each step. If you tend to do this and you are wearing old shoes as well that are broken down, you have set yourself up for injury. Get new motion-control running shoes.

Lack of calf flexibility

Treatment options:It can take several weeks to recover from plantar fasciitis. You will need to rest and reduce your walking.

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