Lately, I have had some conversations with campers about the bottoms of their feet burning/cramping during certain exercises in boot camp. I think this is a good time to address this issue and give you some tips on how to mitigate the discomfort.
Every new exercise program has an adjustment period associated with it. The first couple weeks your body is trying to figure out what you are doing to it. Exercise is a new stress to the muscles, ligaments, and joints. It is this stress that causes our muscles, tendons, and ligaments to adapt and grow stronger.
One thing about the foot is that it consists of many tendons and ligaments. These tissues take much longer to strengthen than muscles most likely due to their lack of blood flow and nutrients. With the new exercises we are temporarily irritating these tissues and forcing them to stabilize. They will heal back stronger but it takes longer.
Remember, we bind our feet up in fancy shoes all day so they get very very lazy. The shoes provide all the support and our feet are allowed to just sip pina coladas in their lounge chair. Just like any type of laziness, it makes us weak. If the feet don’t get worked they get lazy. Then, they get weak.
In camp we move in all 3 planes of motion so the feet are constantly working to stabilize your body. This is just like getting the couch potato up and moving again. The first few weeks will be a little painful. If the pain lasts for weeks and months. Then it might be time to see a podiatrist but I would suggest trying the interventions below first before you see a specialist. Many times they will have you try some of these modalities first anyways. So save yourself the bill.
Here are few quick tips to help prevent and relieve pain.
1. Soft Tissue Work and Stretching
Work on the bottom of the foot before and after boot camp. Take your shoes off get the tennis ball out (or golf ball) and roll the bottom of the foot out. Do not be gentle and grind on those tissues.
Also do some soft tissue work on the calf. Tightness in the calf (backside of lower leg) could be contributing to tightness on the foot as well.
When you get done stretch the calf using a wall. With the heel on the ground put the toe up on the wall and then drive the knee and hip forward keeping the leg fully extended. This will stretch the bottom of the foot and the top of the calf as well.
Wall Calf Stretch
Repeat this multiple times throughout the day. After a few weeks your tissue will adjust and your feet will be stronger. Remember though, it takes time.
This is also a good reason to get your significant other to give you a foot massage. Please be considerate and wash those stinky things before you make someone else rub them for free. If you are paying for the massage stink away my friends.
2. Lace Your Shoes up Tight
Your feet could be sliding around in your shoes, which causes friction and forces you to constantly contract your foot to keep your balance. Lace them all the way up and make sure at the top you are laced into the widest holes. This will keep the shoe firmly in place on your foot.
3. Relax the foot
Relax your foot when you exercise. Get off your toes and more on the mid-foot and heels. The only time you should be on your toes is when you are sprinting or doing some type of exercise where the rear foot needs to bend (think split squat). The rest of the time you should be utilizing your full foot.
4. Spend More Time Barefoot
The pain you are feeling is an indication that the foot is weak. Spend more time barefoot, preferably around the house unless you have a very liberal workplace.
You don't have to go to this extreme, start inside.
Try warming up at boot camp barefoot (or in socks) then transitioning to shoes for the workout. This extra time out of your shoes can do wonders for strengthening the muscles on the bottom of the foot.
Shoes desensitize our feet and make them lazy. We have many nerve endings in our feet, which in turn give us feedback. If constrict the foot with shoes we soften or deaden that feedback. Now our foot struggles to communicate with us so waking it up again can be an unpleasant experience. I mean do you like to be woken up and forced to work in the middle of your slumber.
5. Are Your Shoes the Problem?
Many people who workout buy running shoes. Running shoes are meant for one thing, running (forward). In camp moving forward is just one piece of what we do. We also move side to side, twist, move backwards, basically every motion possible. Your next pair of shoes should be a cross trainer or something that gives some lateral support. You also need to find a pair of shoes that fits YOUR feet. This will take some shopping around and most likely these will not be a $20 payless brand.
Think about investing in inserts as well if you can’t find anything that works. I have heard good things about superfeet, but this is coming from a guy who goes barefoot or runs around in Vibrams all day. I know NOTHING about inserts.
Invest in your feet, they need to carry you for a lifetime. This might also mean getting out of your shoes for awhile.
Your body will adjust to the increased workload just hang in there. In the meantime try some of the tips above and let know what works. Above all listen to your body. Stop and rest if you need to.
Anybody else have problems and found a nice solution. Let me know in the comments section below.