Keep Your Feet Safe at the Gym or Health Club

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Don’t let foot injuries keep you from your fitness resolutions!

Now that we are in already into mid February, keep your feet in tip-top shape while following through with your resolutions to get fit. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons offers tips for foot safety while at the gym:

  • Start new workouts gradually. Increase your stamina and the length of your workouts gradually to avoid overuse injuries, such as stress fractures or tendon strains and sprains. Stretching your muscles before and after workouts also helps prevent these types of injuries. “If you feel you’ve sprained your ankle, be sure to seek treatment right away,” Florida foot and ankle surgeon, Brandi M. Johnson, DPM, FACFAS, explains. “Untreated or repeated ankle sprains may lead to chronic ankle instability, a condition that causes persistent pain and a ‘giving way’ of the ankle.”
  • Wear the right shoe and sock. Wear well-fitting athletic shoes designed for the exercise or sport. According to Dr. Johnson, shoes that don’t support the arch of the foot and provide cushioning for the heel can cause heel pain (plantar fasciitis). Shoes that are too small can also cause a neuroma, or a thickening of the nerve tissue, in the foot and may require injections, medication or physical therapy. Wearing cotton or nonslip socks are also key to help avoid painful blisters, which can become infected and can cause more serious issues.
  • Use good technique. Improper exercise techniques can result in injury to the tendons or ligaments in your feet and ankles. Take your time and first learn the correct movements before adding weight resistance and speed.
  • Protect yourself from bacteria. Sweaty shoes, public showers, exercise equipment and the pool deck at the gym are breeding grounds for fungus, viruses and bacteria, including drug-resistant strains like MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which has become increasingly more common. Never go barefoot while in public areas; water shoes can provide a great barrier between your feet and the wet surfaces.
  • Clean your hands. Wash your hands properly before and after each workout. You should use soap, lather up with either warm or cold water, and rub your hands for at least 20 seconds, then rinse well. Make sure you dry with a clean towel or air dry. If soap and water are inaccessible, you should use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Choose one that is at least 60 percent alcohol. Be sure to rub it over all the hand’s surfaces including the fingers and back of the hand until they are completely dry.
  • Disinfect gym equipment. Wipe down the mats and equipment with disinfectant sprays or wipes, and do the next person a solid by wiping it down again after you’ve finished. When you can, bring and use your own equipment or mat.
  • Shower immediately. After you work out shower right away. Bacteria loves your sweaty clothes. Wash thoroughly with soap and dry off with a clean towel. Pay close attention to your feet. Then put on clean, dry clothes.
  • Wash it after your wear it. Wash and dry your workout clothes after each use. Especially your socks.
  • Cover skin breaks and wounds. Cover any wounds or skin breaks with a waterproof bandage. Avoid taking off your shoes in common areas until it is completely healed.
  • Don’t share personal items. Don’t share towels, soaps, or anything else that comes into contact with the skin as they could be contaminated with a fungus.
  • Be picky when choosing a gym. When choosing a gym, be sure to evaluate its cleanliness. Are the bathroom floors clean? Is there sweat on the equipment? Are the sinks and toilets clean?

Above all, it’s important to listen to your body. If you experience an injury or pain, call your primary doctor or podiatrist for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.

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