For me, one of the best parts about Covid has been a return to walking for exercise. The ability to be mindful,connect with nature and get some fresh air has been a highlight most days. For someone who has spent many years attending gyms fordaily exercise, it has been a welcome reminder about the joys ofwalking.In my video post earlier today, I mentioned that over the past few months during Covid, we have seen many patients presenting to the clinic with 'walking related injuries'. The common catchphrase has been "Can walking really lead to injury?". The simple answer is yes!
Undoubtedly, injuries occur due to overload. When the load being placed on our body is more than it can tolerate, we are at risk of injury.There are many components of 'load' – including physicalload, emotional load, cognitive load and mental load, all of which can contribute to injury and pain. In recent times, I believe all of us have had some change to our emotional, cognitive and mental load.
Our team of podiatrists have been seeing various injuries associated with walking recently including heel pain, forefoot pain (ball of foot), achilles tendinopathy, midfoot pain and ankle pain. There have been some consistent causative factors identified:
1) CHANGE IN LOAD
With gyms shut and team sports on hold, a lot of people have been walking more. For some this has meant a change in load from their usual exercise (higher impact than usual exercise, more time on feet than usual exercise etc).Regular walkers are walking further and more often and others are 'walking for exercise' for the first time in years! This change in load has contributed to an injury occurring.
Inappropriate footwear has been a contributing factor. Often, we see people whohave been walking long distances in 'casual' shoes, which do not provide enough comfort for long walks. Ideally, a running shoe, or walking shoe should be worn.
3) LOSS OF PHYSICAL CONDITIONING
With the temporary closure of gyms and suspension of group fitness, hydrotherapy, rehab classes and team sports, many haven't been loading their bodies as they usually would. Most people have been more sedentary, because they are staying at home. This has led to a loss of physical conditioning and people not being able to tolerate the demands of 'exercise walking'.
So, my advice is this.
If you are increasing your walking, do it gradually. Let your body adapt to the increase in load.
Make sure you are wearing comfortable, well fitting, activity specific footwear for your walks.
Keep moving and maintain yourstrength. Depending on your fitness level, this may require daily weights sessions from home (if that is what your body is used to), andfor others it might mean some gentle strengthening exercises regularly.
And my most important piece of advice is this. If you are injured, seek assistance. Our team of podiatrists are here to help!