UFIT Running

Great Quads, But Is It Any Good For Your Feet?

All high-impact workouts put strain on your feet and ankles, but Crossfit’s and Bootcamps mix of weights, jumps, and cardio can place additional types of pressure on your feet.

These types of stresses have led to misrepresentations in the media. CrossFit has a reputation of being dangerous, with stories of sprained ankles, plantar fasciitis or stress fractures, but these tend to be rare outcomes, and there’s no research based evidence that CrossFit is any more dangerous than other forms of intensive exercise. One study found that 70% of participants had been injured at some point which sounds like a lot, but researchers estimated the rate was three injuries per 1,000 hours trained.  That’s roughly the same as you’d expect to get from gymnastics, and far safer than contact sports like rugby.

Still, there are some aspects of CrossFit which make it risky.  The emphasis on high reps and heavy weights, mean you must have a good trainer.  Many trainers have only a weekend’s training in CrossFit methods, and no expertise in biomechanics, and they may be oblivious to small mistakes in technique which can lead to big problems in the long term.  The team mentality means CrossFitters encourage each other to push past the pain barrier; which is fantastic if you’re lacking motivation, but extremely dangerous if you’re on the brink of injuring yourself.

Many people have inherent imbalances, joint limitations or they may be harbouring niggling injuries which make exercise injuries more common. Niggling injuries are easier to overlook if they are in your feet or legs. For sports people it is very easy to ignore a recurring injury if it seems small, but as with most injuries the most serious often start years before as a niggle or an ache, with appropriate screening the more serious injuries can often be prevented.

Years of sedentary living and poor posture can lead to significant muscle weaknesses, leaving people much stronger on their dominant side.  Even people who are fairly active often have muscle weaknesses that leave them out of alignment: for example, if you always carry a heavy handbag on your right shoulder then it will leave you stronger on that side of your body.  It’s also very common also have one leg slightly longer than the other

In everyday life, you’re unlikely to notice that one of your legs is a little shorter or you are suffering from ankle instability.  But once you start doing intense WODs, lifting huge weights, or running long distances, the lopsided distribution of your body weight can lead to long-term problems with your ankles and knees.  Unless you drop a barbell on your foot, most injuries are caused by problems building up over time as the strain on your body exacerbates pre-existing issues. 

Eventually, though, building muscle strength through CrossFit will leave you less injury-prone, since stronger muscles are less likely to tear.  You just have to make sure you’re pushing your body safely.  Wearing well-fitted shoes is proven to reduce your risk of injuries from exercise, but since there’s such a variety of activities in a CrossFit class it can be hard to choose the right footwear. There is a large debate currently between the two most common shoes used in CrossFit, but we will broach this another time.  As with all new sports and activities, there are some ideas about health and fitness which are widespread but not really backed up by scientific evidence.  Eating paleo is one, doing multiple sets of Olympic lifts is another. There’s a widespread idea that the best shoe for CrossFit is one with a very flexible sole and zero drop – that is, a shoe that keeps your heel exactly level with your toes.

It is important to have a new shoe for each sporting activity, and with the variation of movements and activities in CrossFit, in theory, you’d need a different type of shoe for each activity – one for cardio, one for lifts, and one for jumps. Since everybody knows how to run or jump but most people have never done clean-and-jerks before starting CrossFit, it makes sense to focus on getting a good pair of weightlifting shoes. 

Weightlifting shoes are very different running shoes.  They usually have a slight wedge shape to them, because lifting the heel slightly reduces pressure on the spine while lifting and forces the quads to take more of the weight.  The raised heel also discourages you from lifting the ankle or rolling sideways into ‘duck feet.'  

Done correctly, with good form, weightlifting actually strengthens the bones in your feet and ankles, but done incorrectly it can cause nasty chronic injuries like collapsed arches.  Women should be especially careful to wear the right shoes for lifting weights.  A study found that men tended to get more ‘typical’ weightlifting injuries, like shoulder sprains or muscle tears in the arms, while women were more vulnerable to hurting their knees and ankles.

CrossFit is great for your cardiovascular fitness, it burns hundreds of calories a session, and all those squats will give you glutes that could crack a walnut. Just make sure that you’re taking good care of your feet and ankles, or you could end up ruining all your gains by getting injured. 


About the author

Tim has been working in Singapore for 6 years, he spent 2 years at Tan Tock Seng Hospital before moving to The Foot Practice. Tim recently joined the UFIT Clinic team to help support our CrossFit Tanjong Pagar and CrossFit Bukit Timah athletes.

He has previously worked at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge (UK) whilst also working under several renowned Podiatric surgeons in London. Tim has worked in Southern India, Peru and China treating a whole range of different foot types.  

He specialises in non-surgical treatment of the foot and ankle, with special interest to sports injuries and paediatric foot care. With a specialist interest in the effect of custom made orthotics and the effect on foot health. 

Runners: Your Missing Ingredient To Success!

Most runners run because they love running. They love getting out on the road or the track, they love the time to reset, to reflect, and they love the feeling of achievement after every run – from a competitive race to a slow jog around the park! But what if I told you that there was a way to make your running smoother and faster, to avoid running injuries,  and therefore to get more enjoyment out of it!

Running is essentially a series of one legged hops in a row. In order to improve this, you need to develop the strength and the stability of the movement. The best way to do this is to Squat.

Air Squats

Air Squats

Back Squats

Back Squats

There really is not a better exercise to focus on your core, hips, glutes, and leg strength. Any runner who does not squat is missing out on all the benefits this exercise brings in terms of strength and stability. It can also help to erase any muscle imbalances you have, where one side of your body is doing all the work! Start off just doing body weight squats, ensuring your knees are in line with your toes, and do not extend over your toes. If you can manage this, add a small weight like a medicine ball. Aim for a high volume of reps in order to mimic more closely the requirements of running! You will very soon start feeling the benefit in your muscles, and see the benefits in your running times!

Once you have mastered the squat you can progress to exercises on a single leg.

If you are unsure if you are doing it correctly, or if the squatting movement causes you pain, speak to a good sports trainer or physiotherapist about assessing the movement before you add weigh to it!

See your UFIT Clinic Physiotherapist to get you back to full health today!

Running Injuries

How to Prevent Running Injuries with UFIT

Maybe it is terribly obvious that your feet are one of the most important assets when it comes to running. But most runners don’t realize what benefits come from the maintenance of proper podiatric health. Whether you are Usain Bolt or just another person trying to finish a weekend 5k, runners of all capacities can benefit from appropriate podiatric care.

As the main conduit between your body and the ground, that you are pushing with, don’t you think your feet deserve more attention than we often give them? Maintaining proper foot health is the key to a long and successful running career.

Professional runners from 3 times New York City Marathon Champion Alberto Salazar to American Record Holder in the Mile, Alan Webb are proponents of proper foot care. It’s only logical to think that the part of the body enduring the most abuse deserves the most attention and care.

Luckily foot care in the running industry has a long history of in-depth study that has lead to large advances in podiatric technology geared towards preventing injuries.

What are the most Common Injuries?

Injury is the criminal inevitability of the sport and is almost a rite of passage to becoming a true runner. Though we cannot prevent injury all together there are various methods and techniques that your podiatrist can recommend to help reduce the frequency of these injuries. Some of the most common injuries reported by runners are plantar fasciitis, plantar fasciopathy, and Achilles tendinitis.

These are all categorized as overuse injuries that leave runners vulnerable to these ailments. Though they are all categorized under a single title there are many different factors that will put you at a higher risk of contracting these running-related injuries. Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Improper Bio-Mechanics
  • Sudden changes in running surfaces (grass to asphalt)
  • Improper mechanics of the foot such as high and low arches
  • Sudden changes in training stimulus (Adding sprints, hills, or mileage too quickly)

How to Avoid Injury?

The causes listed above are all contributing factors to the aforementioned overuse injuries. Injuries like Achilles tendinitis are often due to muscle weakness in the lower leg combined with improper foot mechanics. This type of injury for example can be prevented by the implementation of a strength and flexibility routine provided by your podiatrist.

Pascal Dobert, former Olympian in the steeplechase and current strength and flexibility coach for the Oregon Track Club Elite is an advocate of the eccentric heel drop exercise for when runners are looking to prevent Achilles tendinitis.

David McHenry, a physical therapist for the Nike Oregon Project suggests runners who suffer from plantar fasciopathy and plantar fasciitis start a routine of foot strengthening exercises to help prevent and relieve pain from these common overuse injuries. By visiting your doctor, he or she will also be able to analyze what biomechanical imbalances exist within your foot and will be able to construct orthotics that will provide proper support. In short, we are not centipedes so we only get 1 pair of feet so make sure you treat them well.

Are custom orthotics worth it?

If you’ve ever been to a podiatrist because of a running injury, it’s likely that he or she suggested you get a custom shoe insert, or “orthotic,” made to treat or prevent injury. Certainly, there are still some universals when it comes to custom orthotic design. A runner with chronic pain under his first metatarsal head will almost certainly benefit from a shoe insert which will help relieve pressure on this area. And fortunately, the field of podiatry is (slowly) moving away from evaluating every foot relative to a “normal” one and instead focusing on the actual cause of tissue stress.

If your doctor does recommend a custom insert, don’t be afraid to try a high-quality over-the-counter orthotic first (like Super Feet or Power Step insoles), since they aren’t nearly as expensive as a custom orthotic, and at least one study has indicated that they may work just as well as a custom orthotic.

But the issue of comfort remains your best indicator of whether or not an orthotic is going to work for you. If you have a foot or lower leg injury and decide to give an orthotic a shot, it should feel better, not worse, than running without an orthotic. If an orthotic feels wonky while walking or running, it’s unlikely that it will help prevent future injuries.

So if you suffer from foot pain and want to know more about how to prevent injuries then our runners assessment package is the best place.

See your chosen Podiatrist Tim Maiden at UFIT Clinic: www.ufitclinic.com.