Training for a Big Race? Don’t Let Foot Pain Derail You

Dr. Robert Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

Sure, the Houston Marathon (coming up again on January 20th) gets all the press. But with almost 7 million people in a metro region where temperatures are warm all year long, there’s no shortage of opportunities to get your race on.

Just about every weekend throughout the fall and winter, there’s at least one 5k or 10k event somewhere in the area for you to test your skills and challenge your best time. As the summer heat begins to fade, races of even longer distances begin to pop up with regularity. The Houston Half Marathon is on October 28. There are half marathons in Cypress and LaPorte in November, and one in Galveston in December.

Races

There’s even a women-only half Marathon in Houston December 2nd, and a trail race at Brazos Bend State Park on December 10th that includes a half marathon, marathon, 50 mile, and, for the truly crazy, a 100 mile ultramarathon event.

In other words, you have options. That is, unless you hurt yourself training. And for a lot of runners—rookies and experienced racers a like—that’s a real concern.

Fortunately, by making a few smart adjustments to your training routine, you can significantly reduce your risk of injury.

And even if you do hurt yourself—even just a few weeks before the big race!—we can help you get back to speed with some of the most effective and advanced regenerative medicine techniques available.

More on that in a bit. First, let’s talk prevention.

Tips to Avoid Injury During Race Training

As proud as we are of our revolutionary treatment options—and we are still genuinely thrilled about what they can do for active people everywhere—it is still better to avoid an injury in the first place.

Here are some of the top strategies you can use to minimize your risk:

Wear the Right Running Shoes

Some runners spend hundreds of dollars just on their shoes! Fortunately, you probably won’t have to pay an arm and leg to find a good pair.

But it still pays to make your choice carefully. First, you should select an actual pair of running shoes, not just a generic “athletic” or “cross-training” sneaker. Different activities place different kinds of stresses on your feet, so if you are going to be training or participating in a specific activity, you need sport-specific shoes.

You also want to make sure your shoes are the right size and have the right features for your gait and pronation style. A runner who overpronates, for example, may need a different style shoe than someone with neutral pronation or underpronation. If you don’t know your running style, your running specialty store may be able to help. We can, too.

Finally, shoes need to be replaced when they wear out, since the midsoles compress and can no longer provide adequate shock absorption. This tends to happen at around 300-500 miles logged, though it varies based on the shoes, terrain, and the individual runner.

Listen to Your Body and Take Things Slow

Training is all about preparing your body to endure higher amounts of stress without putting so much stress on yourself that you get hurt in the process. That’s a fine line to walk, and it’s very easy—and sometimes tempting—to cross over to the opposite side.

That’s why it’s so important to start your training early, listen to your body, go slow and spread it out. If you’re a total beginner, figure out a comfortable pace and distance your body can handle, three or four times per week. Then, do not increase your mileage or intensity by more than 10 to 15 percent per week.

It may feel slow. We get it. But restricting yourself to small increments on a weekly basis helps give your body and bones a chance to heal themselves, get stronger, and get used to the longer distances.

Don’t Forget to Stretch, Strength Train, and Cross-Train

Strengthening your legs and joints and keeping them limber and flexible is an important component of injury prevention. Stronger muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your lower limbs are slower to fatigue and can absorb more force and protect you from both overuse and traumatic injuries.

Stretch daily, especially after your warm-up. As for strength training, 2-3 sessions per week on your non-running days is ideal.

Cross-training is also a valuable way to maintain your aerobic fitness level during your off-days. You never want to run more than 3-4 days per week because you will greatly increase your risk of sustaining overuse injuries, but you can enjoy low-impact cardiovascular exercise that doesn’t put so much stress on your joints. Swimming and biking are both excellent choices for cross-training cardio.

What Happens If I Get Hurt Before the Race?

It’s never a good idea to keep running or training through significant pain or an obvious injury. If you do, you risk that injury developing into something much more serious and long-term.

Fortunately, we have the tools, technology, and experience to help you get back on your feet and ready to go quickly.

Want a specific example? A few years ago, we met a patient who couldn’t run or train at all due to debilitating shin splints. Three weeks later, he crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon, pain-free, thanks to the treatment Dr. Parker provided. You can read his amazing story here.

Racing

We use regenerative medicine therapies with great success for patients who have almost any kind of foot pain, especially cases that just aren’t going away or responding to other treatments. When you absolutely have to get better as quickly as possible, this is THE treatment protocol you want.

A common regenerative approach often goes something like this:

  • Injections of stem-cell derived growth factors. Derived from amniotic and umbilical tissue, this potent mix of growth factors and proteins acts like a “magnet” for your body’s own natural stem cells. They flood into the area and begin to repair the damaged and injured tissue.
  • Extracorporeal pulse activation treatment (EPAT). EPAT can be used as a treatment all on its own, but when combined with the stem-cell derived amniotic injections it acts as an exceptionally potent “kick start” to your body’s natural healing response. Your body senses the “microtrauma” stimulation from the pulse waves and rushes to form new capillaries and supply the area with as much oxygen and nutrition as possible.
  • Multiwave Locked System (MLS) laser therapy. Adding laser therapy to the mix offers a more immediate solution for pain and swelling, and also accelerates the cellular regeneration that’s already going on even further.

This 1-2-3 punch of regenerative medicine therapies is pretty much lights out for foot pain. Over and over again, we’ve seen patients who were suffering from very serious, very debilitating pain back on their feet within days to weeks, instead of weeks to months (or for that matter years).

So you’ve got a plan! Be smart about your training so that you can hopefully avoid the injury in the first place. And if you do get hurt, be smart about who you call for help—Parker Foot & Ankle is here to help. 

To book an appointment or request more information, please give us a call today at (281) 497-2850.

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