Seems everyone rings in the new year with goals of self-improvement, usually involving beginning a new fitness routine. But before you hit the treadmill or elliptical in January for the first time in months (or years), give some thought to your hard working feet. Otherwise, you may find yourself asking “How something so good for me can hurt so bad?” Here at Peninsula Podiatry, we would like to present a few considerations before you hit the gym in this new year:

1) Are your shoes brand new or really old? Believe it or not, NEITHER is ideal for jumping right into a fitness routine! Brand new shoes need to be broken in, which is done best by gradually performing more and more light activity. Try walking around your grocery store or the neighborhood a few times before you try running in them. At the opposite end of the spectrum, comfortable older shoes are not always best either when it comes to really increasing your fitness routine. Old, worn out shoes may not be supporting your feet enough, which can quickly lead to tendonitis and foot pain.

2) Are your shoes the right size? To determine if your shoes are the right size, you should be able to feel two finger widths between your toes and the end of your shoes when you are standing. Your heel should not easily slip out of the shoe and the sides of your shoes should comfortably hug the sides of your foot. If your shoes are too large, your feet will slide around in the shoe, causing blisters and pain. If your shoes are too small, you can cause damage to your toenails and pressure points. Taking care to ensure proper fit is vital before you start working out.

3) Are your shoes appropriate for the activity you are doing? There are many different types of shoes. Shoes for walking, shoes for running, shoes for biking, shoes for hiking, and all serve to help your foot function in different ways. Remember, not all “tennis shoes” are created equal. If you are unsure what brands to buy, talk to your foot doctor or visit a running store for more information.

4) Do I REALLY have to stretch? Yes. Yes. Yes. The biggest mistake we all make is thinking that we do not really need to stretch before and after a workout. Even if you are just planning an extended walk for that day, it is important to stretch your major leg muscle groups prior to doing so. Even holding a stretch for 30 seconds, 3 times each will help prevent future injury and pain. Additionally, make sure you hydrate well during and after any workout to ensure your muscles have enough water to recover. Often, painful muscle cramps are our body’s way of telling us it needs more water!

With these simple precautions, you should be able to avoid most major foot complaints that begin with new workout routines. Start your new year off on the right foot!