The human foot is an incredibly complex structure. Made up of 26 bones (25 percent of all the bones found in the body), 33 joints, 19 muscles and tendons, and more than 100 ligaments, the foot evolved for hard work: The average person will put approximately 80,000 miles on their feet during their lifetime, according to an article in the Stanford Hospital Health Library.
For athletes, taking care of the feet is particularly important to preserve the balance, support and propulsion they need for running, jumping and other activities. Although the foot is complex and strong, it can also become worn out from daily use.
“The feet have a tough job,” said Greg McMillan, founder and head coach of McMillan Running in Flagstaff, Arizona. “We’re on them all the time, we stuff them in a shoe and constrain them, and then we ask them to perform.”
For this reason, it’s no surprise that foot pain or injuries affect serious and recreational athletes alike. An article by the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine lists a few of the most common ailments. Among them are:
Plantar Fasciitis (Arch Pain)
This condition is often the result of frequent stress to the plantar fascia—a supportive, fibrous band of tissue that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot. Two million Americans experience this condition every year, according to a 2003 article published in the Journal of Bone Joint Surgery.
Heel spur syndrome is related to plantar fasciitis and occurs when calcium deposits build up on the heel bone over the course of many months.
The sesamoid bones are located under the first metatarsal bone—just behind the big toe. When force is put on these bones during aerobics, inflammation and fractures can occur.
To avoid these injuries and keep your feet in top shape, we compiled a list of foot care guidelines based on advice from three expert coaches: McMillen; Pete Rea, the Head Coach at Zap Fitness Running Center in Lenoir, North Carolina; and Mindy Solkin, the founder, owner & head coach of The Running Center LLC in New York City. McMillen, Rea and Solkin are runners themselves and work with elite athletes around the country.