Sports Medicine


Many people with a history of cardiac disease, weight problem, and those 40, realize that before setting off on a fitness program, it is a good idea to see their family physician for a general physical examination.  Your physician may wish to perform an EKG (also known as an ECG, or electrocardiogram), to assess your blood and blood pressure, and to check you for any breathing problems before giving you the green flag to begin an exercise program.  

But fewer people realize that it is equally important to make certain your feet are in good working order before beginning their exercise program.  Yet imagine the complexity of each foot during sports--its combination of 28 bones, 33 joints, 112 ligaments, and a network of muscles, tendons, nerves, arteries and veins all working together in sporting activity.  The entire body depends on each foot to provide support, balance, coordination, and movement, all the while counting upon it to absorb the equivalent force of anywhere from 2 to 10 times your body weight, depending upon your activity.

Runners, in particular, need to be seen regularly to check for any potential stress on the lower extremities.  During a 10-mile run, for example, the feet hit the pavement 15,000 times!   So before you begin a fitness program, make certain that your feet are in good working order. 

Where to begin

By being assessed by a podiatrist before beginning an exercise program, we can identify potential problems, discuss conditioning, recommend the best style of footwear for your particular feet, and when necessary to control foot pathology, prescribe an orthotic device that fits into your footwear.   

Once you start

Once you're thoroughly examined and have been given an okay to begin an exercise program, you're ready to begin, and a good place to begin is with stretching

The Importance of Stretching        

Before beginning an exercise regimen, proper stretching is essential. If muscles are properly warmed up, the strain on muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints is reduced.  


Stretching exercises need only take 5 or 10 minutes, and ought to be conducted in a stretch/hold/relax pattern, with each stretch held for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  There should be no bouncing, pulling, strain or pain.  While you cannot forget the muscles on the front of the leg and thigh, it is particularly important to stretch the propulsion muscles in the back of the leg and thigh (posterior).  

Some effective stretching exercises include:

  • The calf stretch. Face a wall from three feet away.  Put your hands against the wall to stabilize yourself.  Let's start by stretching the left foot and leg.  Put your right foot forward and put most of your weight on that foot.  Keep the heel of the left foot flat against the ground, and keep your knee straight.  Lean forward far enough to feel a vague pull (never pain) in the meat of the calf muscle.  You shouldn't feel the stretch behind your knee or in your Achilles tendon.  If you feel no vague sense of gentle tension, move the left foot back a bit farther from the wall.  Hold the stretch for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, a time frame that provides the most effective stretches.  Repeat the process on the opposite foot, then do this again for each foot.    

  • The hamstring stretch. Sit on the ground with your right leg forward, with your left foot tucked towards your body. Keep your right knee straight, then lean forward until the muscles are tight. Again, you should feel a vague pull--never pain-- in the meat of the hamstring muscles.  Hold for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, then repeat for the other leg.  

  • The Lower back stretch. In a standing position, keep both legs straight, feet spread slightly. Bend over at the waist and attempt to touch the palms of your hands to the floor. Hold the stretch for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  

Other stretches may be recommended as well.  

Proper Footwear




There area myriad of shoe choices available these days, one for virtually every activity you can think of.  Shoes come in different shapes, sizes and widths.  While much of shoe buying is determined by expensive marketing campaigns, proper shoe choice should be determined by the patient's weight, foot structure, activity level, and by any biomechanical or structural abnormalities.  

Consider whether an orthotic device will be placed in your shoe, and your foot type.  (Are you high-arched or flat footed?  Do you run on the balls of the foot, or on the side of the foot.  

Good shoes are designed to provide cushioning, shock absorption and mechanical control.   It should bend at the ball of the foot (where your foot bends), but not in the arch.

In order to make sure your shoes aren't too tight, sear thick socks when trying shoes on, and go shoe shopping in the afternoon, when the feet are slightly swollen.  


Training Tips 

Make sure you begin your exercise routine gradually.  Begin slowly, then progress slowly towards a rigorous regimen in order to prevent muscle strain and other, more serious injuries.  It will likely take at least 3 or 4 months to get in the proper shape, longer for older, less fit patients.   

It's generally a good idea to conduct a vigorous exercise program about 4 days per week, giving your muscles time to rest and repair themselves.  As time progresses, you'll be able to do more and more.  Don't be frustrated with the pace of training.  It's best not to rush your training schedule.  

Proper foot hygiene can also prevent injuries. Keeping feet powdered and dry is important, especially to the jogger suffering from blisters. Blisters can be prevented by application of petroleum jelly or creams to the feet where they occur.

How to Deal with Aches and Pains 

Even when you train properly, you're certain to have some aches and pains along the way.  That's to be expected.  When you're stiff and sore, take an easy day.  If the discomfort resolves, increase your activities gradually.  If the discomfort does not get better, or if it worsens, stop the activity and see your podiatrist.  Most injuries are much easier to treat if they're addressed early.  

Common injuries with training are strained arches, heel pain, tendinitis, shin splints (pain in the lower leg), knee pain and low back pain.  While this website cannot diagnose or suggest cures for  your discomforts, feel free to look through our web pages on those subjects to give you an idea of some of the more common causes of those complaints.  

Any abnormal biomechanics (improper function), will tend to cause the types of injuries mentioned above.  In those cases, your injury may not be a one-time-only complaint.  Rather, your body may have a chronic predisposition to develop problems because of improper structure, function, or imbalance.  In this case, it's most effective to try to deal with the cause of the complaint by being treated with specialized types of braces and appliances.  The most common of these are orthoses, (custom-made shoe inserts), though other devices may also be prescribed.    

See a sports-minded podiatrist to help with these conditions, preferably one board-certified by the American Board of Podiatric Orthopedics and Primary Podiatric Medicine.  



You are reading a web page from:

This website is operated by 
The Achilles Foot Health Centre
S. A. Schumacher, D.P.M., F.A.C.F.A.S., F.A.C.F.A.O.M.  
Dr. S. A. Schumacher, Podiatric Corporation  

You may reach this website by visiting any of the following URL's: