Runners, walkers, bikers, and hikers rely heavily on their feet. Feet allow us to do the things we love, but all that stepping, jumping, and pounding can cause damage to the plantar fascia. It's a thick band of tissue that covers and protects the bones on the bottom of your feet. When put under too much stress, these tissues can tear, causing a painful condition called plantar fasciitis. The tears cause inflammation and scar tissue, which can make your feet even less flexible. To prevent this problem in the first place, it's a good idea to stretch your plantar fascia regularly, so you can keep doing the activities you love.
One of the dreaded side affects from starting a new walking or running routine is shin splints. The pain down the outside of your lower leg may be caused by a variety of issues, but the calf muscle tends to get stronger before the muscles on the front of the shin. While stretching the calves is intuitive post run, strengthening the opposing muscles on the front of the shin is not. A simple exercise to do just that is heel walks.
The exercise name describes the action quite well. Walk about 20 yards on your heels with toes lifted off the ground. Take small steps and keep your toes, even though they are up off the ground, pointed forward (don't let your toes rotate outward). You can do this exercise barefoot or in your sneakers.
Fit's Tip: This is a great exercise to incorporate into your dynamic warm-up.
We all know that men and women are different, even in how we exercise. Add to those differences the fact that women are more likely to suffer knee injuries. The difference is structural; the width of our child bearing hips angles the thigh bone (femur) in such a way that it creates some laxity and instability in the knee joint. Not to mention the ebb and flow of hormones women experience monthly can affect knee stability too.
One way to protect your knees is to strengthen your hips, or anatomically speaking your glute med – the muscle that fills in the side of your pelvis (see an image of the muscle here). Having strong glute meds helps to control the thigh bone, which then helps to stabilize the knee joint. Sounds like a win/win situation to me.
To see how to strengthen your hips, just read more