Is exercise damaging your legs?

injured runner
Know what can cause injuries

Don't let your feet hold you back when it comes to keeping fit, says podiatrist Lorraine Jones.

'There are a whole range of foot problems related to exercise. The commonest ones related to sports tend to be ones picked up in the gym changing rooms and are usually fungal, such as athlete’s foot and fungal infection of the toe nails. However there are also a lot of foot problems linked to exercise:
 
Pulled Hamstring
A pulled hamstring is a common sports injury, seen most commonly in sprinters. A pulled hamstring is an injury to one of the three hamstring muscles. Treatment of a pulled hamstring is important for a speedy recovery. The hamstrings bend the knee and move the thigh backwards at the hip. When you sprint, the hamstrings decelerate the tibia as it swings out, and it is in this phase of activity just before the foot contacts the ground when the hamstrings are nearing their maximum length that the muscles can become injured.

Superfoods to feed your running
 
Runner's Knee, also known as Patellofemoral Syndrome
This is knee pain that occurs at the front and centre of the knee, and can refer to a number of conditions affecting the knee such as the softening and breakdown of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap (patella) and  patellar tendinitis – commonly referred to as runner's knee.
 
Shin Splints
Shin splints, like runner's knee, is also a term that describes a set of symptoms, and I commonly see this in January/February time when New Year’s resolutions to get back to the gym or start running occur – often wearing inadequate footwear.

Shin splint pain can be due to problems with the muscles, bone, or the attachment of the muscle to the bone. It’s an overuse injury with pain usually located next to the tibia, and can be painful enough to prevent further exercise. Treatment involves a combination of rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, stretching exercises and, where necessary, changes to footwear, and a gradual return to sporting activities.

Plantar fasciitis is heel pain due to inflamed plantar fascia – a thick ligament running along the bottom of foot. It can cause pain when walking or running, and occasionally lead to the formation of a heel spur.

How to start barefoot running without getting injured
 
Runner's Toes
During the summer sandal and flipflop season you can often spot the keen athlete: long distance runners often have bruised toenails. Downhill running and shoes that are too small don’t help. The bruising happens when the toes hit the toebox of the shoe; occasionally this can be due to how your limbs function – biomechanics. Some runners pull their toes up while running, and also an unstable big-toe joint can make the lesser toes grip harder and become traumatised and bruised. So make sure you wear well-fitted shoes and keep the nails trimmed short.

Your guide to trainer technology
 
A final tip for good food and limb health - buy the right shoes
Buying properly fitted running shoes and getting the correct trainer for your sport is essential for good foot and limb health. For example, running shoes are designed for running forwards and tennis shoes are made for running from side to side as well as running forwards. This means that they have much better support and stability for the ankles, which running shoes don't. Running studies show that fewer than half of people's running shoes are fitted correctly, so getting the right fit is essential.

Look after your foot health
 
Feet tend to expand by at least half a shoe size during the day, so always buy new trainers later in the day when your feet may be warmer and also slightly larger.'