Have you ever realized how much we use our feet?

On a daily basis we are walking to class, climbing up and down stairs, pressing the gas pedal and brake and standing up for multiple hours at work. Although it may not occur to us, our feet are extremely vital to our everyday lives.

Therefore, it is very important to keep our feet healthy. Seems easy enough, right? However, for those of us who avidly exercise or those who are just beginning their journey to fitness, maintaining the health of our feet can be more challenging.
Think about this: along with daily walking, standing and climbing, people who exercise are also jumping, running and bouncing for an extended period of time. They are subjecting their feet to these high impact moves several times a week. A steady routine of these actions can have some negative consequences for our orthopedic health.

A common condition that affects runners and overweight people is called Plantar Fasciitis. Mayo Clinic explains that Plantar Fasciitis “involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning.”

Fallen arches are also a problem many active people have. If you look at the bottom of your foot, you should see an arch form towards the inside. There are a series of tendons that form the arch. When those tendons are damaged, the arch sags and this creates fallen arches. You may notice fallen arches also if you are naturally flat-footed.

Other chronic pains such as Achilles Tendonitis (shooting pain stemming from the Achilles tendon) and arch strain (dull or burning pain in the arch of the foot) can simple be a nuisance or an actual medical problem.

Yes, the consequences of neglecting the health of you feet may seem frightening and excruciating, however, I am not suggesting you quit exercising all together. That would be more detrimental to your health. I suggest that you exercise smarter and more safely.

In order to preserve the strength and use of the muscles and bones in your feet, follow these three easy tips when you are working out:

Wear the Right Shoe
Shoes that are too tight, too loose or really worn out are not appropriate to exercise in. You want a comfortable athletic shoe that has well cushioned insoles. According to Mizuno USA, a company that produces athletic wear and equipment, “a high quality [running shoe]…should get anywhere from 300-500 miles.

If you did not keep count of the miles that you conquered, then you can tell how much wear your shoe has by examining the insole. If the insole feels flat and lifeless it is time to retire your shoes. If you press on the insole and it does not immediately bounce back, it is time to retire your shoes.

You also want a shoe that conforms to your foot. A person with low or fallen arches should opt for a shoe that has adequate arch support. A person with a wide foot should search for a shoe that is specifically made for wide feet.

Perform Exercise the Correct Way
Before you attempt any form of high impact exercise, you should always make sure you have proper form. Having incorrect posture, footing or alignment while performing exercises will eventually lead to pain or injury.

For example, most people have been doing jumping jacks wrong their entire lives.

While doing a jumping jack, you should try to keep the heel of your foot on the ground at all times. Typically, exercisers will come up on the ball of the foot will jumping. However, this misalignment puts too much weight and explosive pressure on the tendons in the arches as well as the toes. Just a subtle adjustment can save you a future of foot pain or surgery.

The same philosophy applies to running, walking, hopping, and dancing. If you begin to feel any discomfort while you are performing these activities, it is best to ask your coach, trainer or doctor if you are using the proper form.

Avoid Over Use
Rest days are one of the most important features of your fitness routine. Remember that after you train your muscles, you must rest them in order for them to heal and grow properly.

Your feet contain muscles just like the rest of your body, so it is logical to have rest time for your feet as well. You probably cannot avoid walking for an entire day, but you can avoid strenuous activities such as running, jumping or flexing.

You can also switch up your workout routine in order to avoid over use of a specific muscles in the foot. For example, instead of jogging or aerobics classes for you cardio this week, try swimming or biking, which are heart pumping activities that apply minimal pressure to your feet.

Our feet, literately, carry us throughout our lives. Therefore, we should do whatever we can tomake sure our feet are treated well. This means wearing properly fitting shoes, exercising with correct form and avoiding over use of our feet. With these tips, you are one step closer on your path to fitness.