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The first and most crucial step in getting into shape is selecting proper athletic footwear which will allow you to train hard and support your feet, ankles and joints in the process. If your shoes are more than a year old, you need a new pair—and the same goes for your DoctorInsole™ orthotics. Your shoes and your orthotics will lose their resiliency after several hundred wearings – meaning about one year, for most people.

To prevent spring training injuries, here are some foot-fitness tips:

CHANGE IS GOOD…

We humans are creatures of habit, and runners, joggers and walkers tend to use the same route for every workout. I suggest changing your path, through different types of terrain—the more opportunities you have to run on soft surfaces, like grass, the better. A common problem, Iliotibial band syndrome, which is an irritation of the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from hip to shin, may be considered a kind of repetition injury, often caused by running on the same side of the road or in the same direction on a track. Change route and alternate frequently to avoid this problem.

…BUT PAIN IS NEVER GOOD.

It’s time that we get over the whole macho “No pain, no gain” concept in fitness. Getting into shape and staying fit does require discipline and sacrifices—this time of year, stay out of the Marshmallow Peeps and jellybean aisle!–but pain serves no purpose other than to tell us we are doing something bad to our bodies.

Here are a couple of stretches that I recommend you do before you hit the B-ball court or take off for a run—and doing them during your workout is also a good idea.  Take special care to do these when doing hill work, beginning speed work, and upping your training mileage.

1. Achilles Tendon Stretch: Stand with your one foot behind the other. Point the toes of the back foot toward the heel of the front foot, and lean into a wall. Bend the front knee and keep the back knee straight, heel firmly planted on the floor. Hold for a count of 10. Repeat on other side.

2. Plantar Fascia Stretch: Sit down, and place one foot across your knee. Gently pull your toes back toward your shin until you feel a stretch in your arch. Run your thumb along your foot–you should feel tension. Hold for a count of 10. Repeat on other side.

At the first sign of soreness, massage (roll a golf ball under your foot) and apply ice (roll a frozen bottle of water under your foot).

Remember: what you wear on your feet when you’re not running makes a difference. Arch support is always key, so going barefoot or wearing flip-flops can delay recovery when you’ve got a foot injury.

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