Walking for Fun and Health

August 31, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports 

According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association, last year more than 40 million people walked for fitness. Hooked on the Outdoors, a backyard travel and gear magazine, reported more than 159 million Americans age 16 and older participated in human-powered outdoor recreation activities in 2004. Both numbers are outstanding.

     Our society has become an obese society—with weights scary especially at younger ages. The simple act of walking can, and will, help you get healthier. The appeal is its ease and enjoyment. Everyone can walk. Depending on your fitness level and overall health, you can walk at least several miles each day.

     One component of walking is its cost—it’s cheap. A good pair of shoes can run you $75.00. Toss in a few pairs of socks and for under $100.00 you’re set. In a pinch, start with whatever shoes you have until you can purchase good shoes. If you start slowly and add distance gradually, there is virtually no risk of injury (watch out for curbs). Over time, and faster than you thought possible, you’ll lose weight, tone your muscles, and develop a new appreciation for life.

     Walk the dog, or walk with your kids, spouse or significant other, or friends. Enjoy the outdoors. Walk in a park, through town, around the mall—it doesn’t matter where—as long as you walk. Plan a route where you’ll have fun.

     If you are new to walking, or want to help someone start, there are lots of helps available. Check out The Walking Site and About.com for tips on getting started.

     The key to enjoying your walking is having good footwear, especially as you walk farther. Face it, if your feet hurt, you aren’t going to walk very far, nor very often. Shoes like Rockport, New Balance, Nike, Reebok, Asics, Saucony, Adidas, Easy Spirit, and others will provide the support and cushioning your feet need. I might scrimp on some things I buy, but not footwear. My feet are too important.

Choosing the Right Footwear

August 29, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Sports 

If you are unsure of how to choose the right footwear for your activity, ask the salespeople at your outdoors store. One caveat though, I mean a “quality”outdoor store. Many people make the mistake of going to a discount store, a department store, or a chain store where, for the most part, the sales people have “zero” shoe-fitting experience.

     Fitting shoes means more than simply handing you a size nine shoe and pushing down on the toe and saying, “Yup, it has enough room.” Good sales people will measure your feet both sitting and standing, look at your old shoes (so yes, take your old shoes along), ask you what you will be using the shoes for, ask if you know your foot type, ask about any injury history, and maybe which shoes you have worn in the past.

     When they bring out the shoes, they will often point out the shoe’s features. They’ll have you try on the shoes, and yes, they will check for correct spacing in the toe box (both length and height). They will ask you to walk in the shoes and maybe even to go outside and run (if you are a runner) to get a feel for the shoes.

     Another reason to go to a quality store is the quality of the shoes. Many shoe companies sell seconds or styles/models that are of lesser quality than the shoes they are typically known for. This is rarely an issue with hiking boots; but it is a huge issue with the running and walking shoe companies. While not all companies do this, enough do for it to be a concern for the uneducated shoe buyer. These shoes end up at the stores mentioned above.

     What’s the big difference in the two types of sales people? Those from a quality shoe store really want the shoes to fit because they understand the importance of fit for athletic activity—even if it’s just walking. They want you to be happy with your footwear selection and they want your feet to be happy too.

Can You Get Enough Information About Feet?

August 27, 2005 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports 

For the past four years, I have written the monthly Fixing Your Feet Ezine. That’s a lot of words about our appendages that we so often take for granted. Is there really that much to say and is it important?
     For athletes, especially extreme athletes, you can never have too much information. Whatever we do, it’s usually our feet that get us there—and back. In the same way we spend money on gear and training, and travel and food, we need to remember our feet. There is a lot of information that could help us walk and run better. There are lots of great products, some new and some old, and a lot of tips and hints. That is what the Ezine has done, provided that kind of information. Oh yea, and a great Bad Feet Photo Contest!
     The purpose of the Ezine is to inform and educate athletes and non-athletes about proper foot care skills and techniques, provide tips on foot care, review foot care products, and highlight problems people have with their feet. Over the years there have been articles on recovery from toe surgery, turf toe, maceration, toenail care, blisters, foot care kits, footwear, socks, insoles, foot care basics, ankle care, gaiters, fit, tendon problems, podiatrists, warts, dealing with sand and water, and much more.
     There are few people that have the same fascination with feet that I have—especially in how we patch out feet during sports. However, if you love your feet and are into walking, hiking, running, or any form of sport, you should learn how to care for these important parts of our anatomy. My book Fixing Your Feet is the ‘bible’ of foot care for athletes. The Ezine has played a major role in presenting information on foot care. And then there is this new blog. Can we have too much information about foot care? I can’t. Can you? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
     To subscribe to the Fixing Your Feet Ezine, Click Here. Once you are a subscriber, you’ll have access to all the back issues.

Getting Help Buying Footwear

August 25, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports 

If you are unsure of how to choose the right footwear for your activity, ask the salespeople. It may be at an outdoor store, a walking store, a running store, or a tri-athlete store. One caveat though, I mean a quality store. That means a store that focuses on sport specific activities. The salespeople are typically better trained to help customers with shoe selection and fit. Many are also able to analyze your gait and stride. The result is a shoe selection that will provide comfort and support.
     Some may argue that the mall store, department store, or cut-rate store, all sell quality shoes. I will not debate that point. But we are talking about finding the right shoes and getting a quality fit. That won’t happen at those stores.
     Take your old shoes along so the salesperson can see the wear patterns and the type of shoe you have worn. Be sure to wear the socks you plan on wearing in the new shoes so everything will fit. Be honest and tell them your history and what you plan on doing.
     Getting a shoe that fits well and is right for your activity and sport is not hard. There is more than one ‘right’ pair of shoes for your feet. The trick is finding the best pair. Don’t go it alone. Get help at a quality shoe store.

The Right Footwear Can Make all the Difference

August 23, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Sports 

This past weekend was spent with friends in the Northern California High Sierras, combining trail running with social fun. I did three runs, two with the group and one solo, covering sections of the Pacific Crest Trail. The trails are great and the scenery spectacular. Every inch of the trail is going either up or down—never flat. The footing ranges from soft dirt to rocks, to shale and granite. If you were prone to turned ankles, it would happen here.
     In between the fast hiking and running, while watching my step, I kept an eye on what others had on their feet. The majority had good footwear—either trail running shoes or larger heavier boots. There were many, however, who wore the wrong footwear. They wore running shoes made for roads or court shoes. These shoes provided no traction on the slippery rocks, no protection from the sharp rocks, and did not give their feet and ankles the needed support. One friend wore her road shoes and ended the first day with three blisters and very sore feet. I saw several hikers with courts shoes and a pack—a very poor combination.
     It is too easy to decide to go for a walk or a hike and simply wear what one has. That may be OK is the event is spontaneous. The trouble is when you end the day with blisters, damaged or black toenails, a turned ankle, or simply very sore feet; you may associate the discomfort and pain with the activity. Instead, the right footwear would have make the hike much more enjoyable.
     The same can be said for wearing the wrong footwear in other instances—cheap flip-flops instead of good sandals and inexpensive shoes instead of quality shoes. Whether walking, hiking, running, trail running, playing court sports, adventure racing, climbing, or biking, the right footwear can make all the difference.

Tossing Socks

August 21, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports 

Ok, this is a quiz. Of all the socks in your sock drawer, how many should have been tossed months ago? I’ll bet you have two to three pair of socks that should have been aimed at the wastebasket a long time ago. Maybe even more. So how do you know when to toss out a pair of socks?
     Actually, it’s fairly easy. After washing socks, put your hand inside and feel around. Then turn them inside out and check them again.
1.    Can you see your fingers through the weave of the fabric?
2.    Can you see threadbare areas, typically on the heels?
3.    Are their holes in the toes, or anywhere else for that matter?
4.    Is the inside starting to unravel?
5.    Are any areas thinner in cushioning than the rest of the fabric around that area?
6.    Is the top cuff around your ankle starting to come apart?
7.    Is the toe seam bothersome?
8.    Is the top cuff no longer supportive, hanging down your ankle?

     If you can answer “Yes” to any of one or more of these eight questions, toss the socks. Socks are relatively inexpensive. Sure, some cost upwards of $15.00 to $20.00 but just like other gear, there comes a time when it’s necessary to clean out your drawers.
     Here’s an added tip. Don’t just check your old socks. Check them all. I recently ran in a fairly new pair of brand name socks and developed a hot spot on one heel. I discovered the sock was defective and the weave on the heel had separated. I had no more than 60 miles on the socks—but saved them for when I do foot care clinics as an example of a sock to toss.

The Right Sock for the Right Shoe

August 19, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports 

I have to confess—I love socks. Last weekend I spent three days at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. Vendors of outdoor gear showed their wares to thousands of hungry store buyers. Up and down the aisles I walked, drawn to the booths that showed anything related to feet. Sure there were lots of shoes. And sure, I spent time looking over the packs and clothes and other goods. But what caught my eye were the socks.
     It’s a good thing I had an extra bag to carry stuff home. By the time the show ended I had 18 pairs of socks to take home and evaluate. Some seem similar. Others are very different. The important thing to remember with socks is that when you bought your shoes, you had on a pair of socks that had a certain weight and thickness. Changing to another pair of socks can and should be easy—as long as you keep this in mind. Changing from one pair to two pair, or to a thicker or thinner pair, or from crew style to a quarter sock can create problems.
     The right sock is one that fits your foot and fills the inside of the shoe. Being too tight or too thick can constrict circulation and lead to problems—especially in cold weather. Rubbing can lead to hot spots, which lead to blisters. Changing to a thinner socks can cause extra movement of the foot inside the shoe, leading to friction, hot spots, and you guessed it, blisters. 
     The right sock also is a moisture wicking sock. I will never wear cotton socks for any kind of athletic endeavor. You need the wicking action to move sweat and moisture to the outer surface of the sock where it can evaporate.
     The right sock is typically a blend of materials. Usually some type of synthetic or wool blended with nylon and Lycra. The unique blends and weaves provide varying degrees of support, ventilation and cushioning.
     Many people will pick a brand of socks and stick with them. That’s fine, but remember, socks manufacturers have made tremendous advances in sock construction. There are many fantastic socks being made and you owe it yourself to check them out. I’ll give you some names in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Proper Footwear

August 17, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Health, Sports 

Today’s shoes are easily interchangeable between sports—or so it seems. It is easy to pull on a pair of shoes and go walking, or running, or hiking—without thinking much about whether the shoes are right for the activity. Everywhere we look, in every magazine we page through, we are inundated with choices in footwear. Why not walk in running shoes, run in walking shoes, or hike in road shoes? In fact, do all three in one pair of shoes. Does it matter?
     Well, in fact, yes—and—no! If you go to a good shoe store and make an educated purchase of a pair of high quality shoes, you will probably be fine. Too many people, however, go to the mall or the discount store and buy shoes. In this case, you will probably suffer. The shoes will likely not fit well since most of the sales people don’t understand fit. They shoes may be an unknown style from the maker or may even be ‘seconds.’  It may surprise you but go into any discount store and look at the walking, running and hiking footwear. Write down the names of some of the shoes and their maker: Nike, New Balance, etc. Then go home and search Google for these shoes. Type in "shoe manufacturer + shoe name + reviews" and see what you find. Here’s an example, "Nike + Tailwind + reviews." Look in Runner’s World, Backpacker, Shape, Running Times, and other magazines for shoe reviews. I’d bet the shoes are not listed in these industry magazines.
     So, back to the question. Does it matter? If your aim is to wear the shoes in a sports activity, I would recommend buying shoes made for that activity. Walking shoes for walking, running shoes for running, and hiking shoes for hiking. The exception is trail running shoes that can easily be used for hiking. Each type is designed for that activity with support and cushioning, fabrics and materials, and midsole and outersole chosen for the activity. Play it smart. Buy and wear shoes for your sport. Your feet will be happy.

An Intense Focus on Feet

August 15, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Health, Sports 

This past week I spent three days at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. The show features vendors with product for the outdoors, from tents, backpacks, kayaks, climbing gear, food, clothes, first aid kits, outdoor books, accessories—and of course the reason I was there—footwear. I had a ball walking the aisles meeting people I had emailed and talked to the previous year, and meeting new folks. I came home with many pairs of socks, insoles, and lacing and skin care products. I also spent time looking at shoes—mainly trail shoes and boots. I got a lot of opinions.
     But we need to think about more than just our feet. It’s not just about them. A lot of how our feet respond to our walking, running, and hiking comes from what else we have on our person. In other words, the fanny packs, backpacks and the gear we carry inside these packs—and the weight of all this stuff.
     The focus of many of the posts over the next months will focus on the products I saw at the show. I’ll do some comparisons and a lot of reviews. We’ll have fun as we talk about the manufacturers claims and how that factors into our buying decisions. Longer pieces will be in the e-zine. As expected, the focus will be on feet. It may surprise you how the non-feet stuff enters into the picture because I believe in the end many of these items also affect out feet.

Our Aging Feet

August 13, 2005 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Footcare, Health, Sports 

As we age, our feet change. Make no mistake, that “fat pad” on the bottom of your foot is getting thinner as you get older. Our feet spread out, getting longer and wider, so we may move up a size or more in footwear. Additionally, we usually become a bit stiffer in the joints. Your arch may also flatten more than normal. So the natural question is, “What should we do?” Here are three steps to keep your feet happy:

  1. As mentioned in an earlier blog, get your feet measured each time you buy shoes.
  2. Buy shoes that fit the shape of your foot and have a wide enough toe box
  3. Invest in a good pair of insoles that provide cushioning and support

     These three tips can be applied to any type of footwear. Don’t spend good money on sport shoes and then go cheap on everyday shoes. Not all shoes are created equal and often the difference between pairs is significant—especially in the way they fit. After all, comfort is important. Just because we are aging, doesn’t mean our feet have to hurt or we have to stop walking, running, or whatever our activity is. As long as we remember how our feet change as we age and buy footwear that fits, we can stay physically active.

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