Common walking injuries include ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, blisters, Achilles pain, Iliotibial band syndrome and dehydration. Here we outline how to avoid common walking and hiking injuries.
How to avoid Ankle sprains
One of the most common walking injuries. An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments surrounding the ankle joint are stretched or torn. If you are lucky (and have good proprioception) your ankle automatically rights itself. As a result, you avoid significant injury. If not, you could suffer a severe sprain that takes weeks to heal.
Avoid ankle sprains in the first place by strengthening your ankles. In particular, balance-type exercises are important. One simple exercise is to stand on one leg with your eyes closed. You should be able to balance without wobbling much for at least a minute.
Taping & supports
Also, if you have weak, unstable ankles with stretched ligaments, or are recovering from injury then wear an ankle brace or support. Whilst no brace can prevent injury, it can give you a little bit of support. Or use sports tape to strap your ankle up using a stirrup-type support strapping.
You are most at risk of a sprained ankle when you get tired. So take breaks and concentrate that little bit more if fatigue starts to set in. If you do suffer an ankle sprain then apply the PRICE principles of Protection, Rest, Compression and Elevation. Then follow a full rehabilitation program.
How to avoid Plantar fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is probably the most common cause of heel pain. This stubborn condition involves inflammation or more likely degeneration of the Plantar fascia under the foot. Specifically, at the point it attaches under your heel. Symptoms consist of gradual onset heel pain, which is often worse first thing in the morning or following a rest period. Later, symptoms improve as your foot warms up, only to return.
Correct footwear avoids walking injuries
Avoid Plantar fasciitis by wearing the right footwear. If you overpronate then wear arch support insoles in your walking boots or shoes. Tape your foot with zinc oxide sports tape to support your arch if you feel symptoms coming on.
Make sure you stretch, especially after a long walk. In particular, stretch your calf muscles and the plantar fascia or foot arch.
How to avoid Shin Splints
Shin splints is the name often given to pain on the inside of the shin. It is not a specific injury. The most common cause is medial tibial stress syndrome resulting from overuse. Symptoms consist of gradual onset pain on the inside of your shin.
A common factor for shin pain in walkers again, is poor foot biomechanics, especially overpronation where your foot rolls in or flattens. Avoid shin pain by wearing arch support insoles such as the Ultimate Performance Support+ if you overpronate. Or if you wear running shoes, opt for a support shoe which restricts overpronation.
Use a foam roller
Again, calf muscle stretches are great for avoiding shin splints. In addition, use a foam roller to massage out any tight knots, lumps and bumps in the muscles.
Apply cold therapy
If you have shin pain, or the early signs, then apply ice or cold therapy for 10 minutes, especially after walking.
Probably the most common of all walking injuries, most people have suffered from blisters at one time or another, especially if they walk long distances. However, they are mostly avoidable. Blisters are fluid-filled pockets that form on the skin due to friction and pressure.
Once again, the correct footwear choice is important. In this case, make sure you have the correct size so your foot doesn’t slip and slide as you walk. Remember, your feet expand half a size when walking, so if they are at all tight when you begin then it is only going to get worse.
Prevention is by far the best cure for blisters. If you are on a long walk and think you might be susceptible then protect your feet with zinc oxide sports tape. The 3.8mm tan tape is best! For even more protection apply blister plasters to problem areas such as the back of your heel and instep. Also, Toe protectors slip over your toes protecting them from rubbing against each other.
How to avoid Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis (tendinopathy) is inflammation (or more likely degeneration) of the Achilles tendon at the back of your ankle. Pain, stiffness and soreness develop gradually over time. It is often worse first thing in the morning, however, eases as your tendon warms up.
It is important you notice the early warning signs of this one because your injury may become chronic if left untreated. Chronic Achilles tendon pain may also lead to a complete rupture, especially in men over 40 years old.
Yes, again, footwear is important to avoid overuse walking injuries. Overpronating causes your Achilles tendon to twist. As a result, the strain on it increases making overuse injuries more likely. Therefore, wear arch support insoles or support running shoes to help correct poor foot biomechanics.
Hot and cold therapy
Apply heat to warm up your Achilles tendon before exercise. Again, use cold therapy or ice after walking if you notice any early warning signs.
How to avoid Stress Fractures
Stress fractures are small cracks in the bone caused by repetitive stress and overuse. They commonly occur in the feet and lower legs and can be accompanied by pain and swelling.
To avoid stress fractures the same principles apply to shin splints. Do not overdo it, notice early warning signs and ensure you have the right footwear and orthotic insoles if needed.
Corns and Calluses
Corns and calluses are thickened areas of skin that develop due to repetitive friction or pressure. They form on the toes, heels, or balls of the feet. Calluses form on weight-bearing parts of the body and corns on non-weight-bearing areas.
They are caused by pressure on the skin, often from poor foot biomechanics or badly fitting shoes.
Avoiding IT Band Syndrome
Iliotibial band syndrome is an overuse injury causing pain on the outside of the knee. The Iliotibial (IT) band is a thick band of tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh. The band rubs on the outside of the knee, eventually causing it to become inflamed.
Again, overpronation is a contributing factor so wear insoles or supporting footwear if you overpronate. If you have symptoms then rest and apply cold therapy.
Potential causes include a tight iliotibial band and/or weak gluteal muscles. Prevent it by stretching regularly and doing hip activation exercises. An IT band strap helps reduce painful symptoms.
How to avoid Dehydration Injuries when Walking
Dehydration is excessive loss of water from the body. This happens for numerous reasons but when walking, failure to take on sufficient fluids will affect your performance, or worse.
Use a specially designed Hydration Pack for walking to stay hydrated on the move. These are backpacks which contain a water-filled bladder, a drinking tube and a bite valve. It’s important to note that if you experience any persistent or severe pain, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment.