The Grass is Always Greener in Your Yard… Until the Heel Pain Strikes! The trouble is your yard work shoes…

Here in the Pacific Northwest (and much of the country), the weather is finally nice enough to be outside and people are hurrying to get out into their yards to work. Whether gardening and landscaping, mowing lawns or starting new outdoor projects all together, we all slip on that worn out pair of tennis shoes and race out our back door. Its become a sign of the change in seasons and the long-awaited welcome of the summer months.

Now how could a podiatrist weigh in on yard work, you might ask? Its all about the shoes.

One of the most common issues seen in my office during the summer is newly onset plantar fasciitis (heel pain). The pain comes on in the morning and each time you first stand up. Most people are dismayed to have this problem arise now that they can finally be outside working, and they choose to ignore the pain. That is, until the frustration is too great, their summer months seem potentially ruined this year, and they limp into the office. For more information on plantar fasciitis and treatments, see: https://peninsulapod.com/heel-pain-plantar-fasciitis/

The truth is, this could be avoided just by ensuring you are using the right shoes! The most common denominator reported to me this time of year is that people’s “yard shoes” are their old pair of tennis shoes they don’t wear anymore. But think about this. Yard work involves walking, standing on uneven surfaces, crouching on your toes and forefeet, and getting up and down off the ground in the form of a lunge. If you thought about your movements in terms of a workout routine, you’ve just launched yourself into some kind of intense, cross-fit-type workout routine… and you’ve decided to do so with the shoes you wont even walk around the neighborhood in anymore. Seems to make less sense, doesn’t it?

While I understand the need not to “ruin new shoes” with yard work, it is important to remember that this drastic change in routine, combined with unsupportive, worn-out shoe gear, is the perfect combination for tendon issues and plantar fasciitis.

The best recommendation I give patients is to obtain boots or shoes that are supportive and rigid to work in, and to stretch their calf muscles twice a day. Stretching exercises can be seen here: https://peninsulapod.com/2018/01/07/heel-stretching-exercise/

Your yard work shoes should not be flexible in the sole or able to be bent in half with the heel and toes anywhere near touching. It is important to think of yard work as a new physical exercise routine and to chose shoes that would best facilitate this. For more information on choosing a shoe, make an appointment with your local podiatrist for recommendations.