Born to Run: Why Humans Are Supposed to Run

 

feet without doctor

The marathon has been an integral event of the modern Olympic games since the first games were held in 1896. Running — mostly long-distance running — has been a fixture in school sport programs and public life since at least the 19th century. Yet the history of human running reaches much further back in human history. One could almost say that human beings were designed to run, and run long distances at that.

Barefoot Running- An Old “Fad”

In premodern times, tribal peoples such as the Tarahumara (also known as the Rarámuri) — a Native American people of current-day Mexico — regularly ran up to one hundred miles per day. The Tarahumara did this as a method of hunting, and also as a method of rapidly moving between widely-spaced settlements. The Tarahumara still still follow the same long-distance running practices today, running at frankly incredible speeds over staggering distances. Although other human activities such as mining, development and tourism have affected the life of the Tamahumara people profoundly — starting from the Spanish colonial period and continuing into the present day — their culture still revolves partially around these feats of running prowess, including races which they run for sport and entertainment. The Tamahumara people are also notable because they run almost barefoot, wearing only simple sandals known as huaraches. They seem adapted to this after many generations of running in this way.  This Podiatrist from Manahawkin, NJ doesn’t feel that barefoot running is for everyone in modern times.  The sports author Christopher McDougall has written extensively on the Tarahumara people, in his popular sports philosophy book Born to Run. Although McDougall devotes a lot of the book to his philosophy of barefoot running, he also closely investigates the scientific theory known as the “endurance running hypothesis.”

Long Distance Running

This hypothesis is also useful to those who seek to explain and examine the health benefits associated with long-distance running. The scientists who proposed this hypothesis believe that certain human characteristics — such as the biomechanics of certain tendons and ligaments, the shape of the foot and ankle, body shape, and other biomechanics concerns — can be explained as an evolutionary response to the need to run long distances. Early humans (and human ancestors) needed to run long distances. They did this because they needed to obtain food, or because they simply needed to cover long distances in order to travel. In many cases, our human ancestors needed to run until the animal they were hunting was exhausted — in much the same way that the Tarahumara still do.

Building up the foot

What can a potential or current runner gain from this information, from these theories? Human beings are supposed to run, and we (as a species) are supposed to run long distances. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that any given person reading this should go out and run (or try to run) a hundred miles a day, just because certain long distance runners can do that after a lifetime of training. Yet, given a large amount of appropriate training and the right support, many healthy people with functioning joints — and a lot of grit — have the ability to work their way up to running long distances, regularly. Every human being, at least genetically, was born to run.

Always check with your foot doctor

Every runner or potential runner reading this should remember to take things slowly. It is important to consult with a physician before undertaking a new exercise or training regime, especially a long-distance running training program. Take things slowly at first, and stop if something feels strange. Yet taking those concerns into account, those who are considering taking up running for fitness should ask themselves what is stopping them. Although many things may hold you back (hopefully only at first), biology isn’t one of them.

Successful Running in the New Year

running for health and fitness

While many people embark on New Year’s resolutions, only a few individuals actually can say on December 31st that they have successfully completely their resolution. Running is a quick and inexpensive way to help get to that target body weight. Here are a few easy ways that the beginning runner can stay committed to their goal.

1. Set reasonable goals. If you aren’t used to exercising everyday it is going to take you a while to get used to the new pace. It is recommended that your runs get incrementally more difficult throughout the year. For instance, start out with a couple of miles and work your way up a quarter mile every two weeks.

2. Don’t over exert yourself. One easy way to convince yourself that your resolution is impossible is to set lofty goals. This goes along directly with tip #1. You wouldn’t want to hurt yourself either on week 1!

3. Avoid running everyday of the week. Running everyday will actually cause harm to your body rather than help it. Give yourself at least three days of rest throughout the week, especially at the beginning of your resolution.

4. Insert strength exercises into your daily routine. Running reduces muscle mass and other exercises are key to maintain the appropriate strength for running. This also helps reduce the chance for injury.

5. Try and run faster towards the end of your runs. Attempting to increase speed during a workout routine will give you a physical boost at the end of a tiring run. It also enhances your endurance for your runs to come.

6. Find a constant breathing rate from the very beginning. Ensuring that a full breath is taken at then beginning of the run helps stave off the point at which you tire. Your body tissues are getting the appropriate amounts of oxygen throughout your run and thus don’t run out of breath as quickly.

7. Invest in a comfortable pair of shoes.  It is imperative that you be able to maintain a healthy pair of feet in order to run. The appropriate footwear helps ensure reduced soreness and less stress on the body, keeping tendonitis, heel pain, and shin splints at bay. It will allow you to continue running longer and more often. When talking about your health and life’s longevity, an extra twenty dollars doesn’t seem that important.  If you have flat feet like me, consider a pair of over the counter insoles for flat feet to increase your endurance and reduce the chances of injury.

8. Make sure that you keep going even if you don’t see immediate benefits. Running is an exercise that takes time to master. However, it has lasting long-term benefits. It helps raise metabolism and reduce body fat. That means all those hours not spent running you are still burning more calories than you would have otherwise. Combining all eight of these tips will most certainly have you well on your way to fulfilling your New Year’s resolution!

 

Is it Better to Run Outdoors or on a Treadmill?

running with foot pain

Many of us are becoming more health-conscious, and are aware that we should be doing some exercise as well as eating properly. As a result, treadmill use has increased significantly over the last decade. It is the most popular type of gym machinery, and many people even have a treadmill in their homes.

However, there is a quite a lot of discussion regarding the potential risks of using a treadmill. Some runners feel that it is better to run outside, while others appreciate the kind of exercise that a treadmill facilitates. This article examines the pros and cons of using a treadmill versus running outdoors.

Risk of basic injuries

One of the most common treadmill injuries is actually the result of a lack of common sense: stepping off the treadmill while it is moving. Whether you want to fetch a drink of water or change the TV channel, you should always stop the treadmill running belt before stepping off and on. Many of those who fail to do so have slipped and done some serious damage to themselves. There is also a risk of getting your hand or fingers caught in the narrow space between the moving belt and the machine itself.

Running outdoors does not entail such risks as there is no complicated machinery involved; however, there is always the possibility that you might stumble and fall onto the hard pavement, which can be just as dangerous.

Finding an appropriate running speed

Using a treadmill, it is important to find a speed that it most suitable for you. If you set the speed too low, you are likely to run with shorter steps, risking stumbling or causing pain in your calves. Setting the speed too high, however, can also be problematic, as it puts your muscles and joints under too much pressure to keep up.

Outdoor running has the advantage here because you tend to run at your “natural” speed. You can go faster or slower depending on how your legs and body feel, whereas on a treadmill changing speed will involve adjusting the program, which can be difficult to get right.

Potential damage to knees

Running of any type is potentially troublesome for our knees. Knees are a notoriously complicated and delicate part of the body, and they act as the main “shock absorber” between our body and the surface we run or walk on. If your thigh muscles aren’t strong enough, the tendons and ligaments that run through the knee will be put under additional pressure. This can eventually lead to “runner’s knee”, in which a constant, dull pain is caused by cartilage grinding against the kneecap.

While the risk of damage to knees is common to both treadmill and outdoor running, most treadmills come with built-in shock absorption systems, which reduce the pressure felt by the ligaments. In contrast, rough outdoor terrain increases the impact on the runner’s knees.  In my area, Dick’s Sporting Goods often has treadmills with a nice amount of shock absorption on sale throughout the year.  Orthotics can also reduce some shock absorption while running.

Overcoming boredom

This final point is entirely subjective, and requires the runner to think carefully about the type of environment in which they prefer to run. Running outdoors is less monotonous: there is changing scenery, fresh air and the opportunity to vary your route. Although running outdoors requires greater concentration in order to maintain a consistent pace, many runners attest to the sense of freedom it gives them.

Running on a treadmill involves remaining in a confined space, with little stimulation. There is no fresh air, and the sensation of constantly pounding on a rubber belt can become very boring. However, many people prefer the fact that a treadmill sets the pace and challenges you to keep up, meaning that unconsciously slowing down is not a possibility, as it would be outdoors. Running on a treadmill absolves the runner of having to find a suitable running route, and the controlled indoor environment means that variables such as weather and temperature do not have to be considered.

Conclusion

Running, whether on a treadmill or outdoors, carries the risk of injury at all times. The treadmill may have the advantage in terms of helping to prevent damage to the knees, but factors such as the pace and incline settings must be carefully considered, lest you do damage to other parts of your body. Running outdoors has the benefits of a varied route and fresh air, but it may not always be easy to find a viable running path, and the weather can be an unpredictable hazard. Ultimately, runners should weigh up the factors that they consider to be most important in their exercise regime, and decide accordingly.

Orthotics – Many Types For Many Problems

insoles

Orthotics is a medical specialty concerned with the use of braces or supports to restore function in various parts of the body. Orthotics can reduce pain and increase movement in feet, knees, shoulders and spine. The most common type of orthotic that most people know is the heel or arch orthotic, which is a padded material put into shoes to help support the arch or heel. Orthotics are divided into two basic types, functional orthotics and accommodative.  There can be many shapes as well, such as orthotics for flat feet, high arches, etc.

Functional Orthotics
A functional orthotic is a device that is designed to improve or restore the biomechanical function of a particular part of the body. The foot is a common site where functional orthotics are needed due to the amount of wear and tear the feet experience during daily activities. Those people who are involved in sports or extreme exercise may also need orthotic fittings for their shoes to prevent pain and increase function.

Accommodative Orthotics
Accommodative orthotics are designed to transfer weight away from painful areas and shift pressure to parts of the foot that have more padding. This type of orthotic is often used for patients with diabetic foot problems, peripheral vascular diseases and neuropathy. This type of orthotic is used to treat specific pathologic processes.

About Foot Orthotics
Foot orthotics are designed to correct certain problems of the muscle and ligament of the feet that can cause weakness and pain. Orthotics can correct an irregular walking pattern, relieve pressure and improve the overall function of the entire foot and lower leg. These devices work as shock absorbers to reduce stress on sensitive areas. Foot orthotics can realign the entire body, reducing pain in knees, hips and back. Those who engage in sports or vigorous exercise can benefit from well-fitting orthotics that reduce impact and improve performance.

Over-The-Counter Foot Orthotics
Consumers can find a number of mass-produced foot orthotics that attempt to fit everyone by assuming an “average” type of foot. For some people, these prefabricated supports may be sufficient to pad the heel or provide light support for arches. However, these supports may not be adequate for people with more serious foot conditions. They can even make some conditions worse by not providing the right type of support.

Custom-Made Foot Orthotics
Often, the best way to get relief from foot pain and muscle strain is with a custom-made orthotic. Generally, a podiatrist is the specialist who fits orthotics for the foot. He will do a complete medical history, conduct a gait analysis and factor in the patient’s activity level. X-rays may also be needed to evaluate painful knee and back conditions. The podiatrist will make a plaster cast of the patient’s foot. This mold is then sent to a lab where they make an orthotic out of a variety of materials that fits this mold precisely. Plastic or carbon fiber is used to fabricate rigid orthotics to control motion and eliminate pain. Soft, compressible materials are used to create orthotics that absorb shock and take pressure off sore spots. This type of orthotic can help to cushion deformities where there is a loss of fatty tissue that protects the foot. This type of orthotic can also be helpful for diabetics who often develop foot problems.

Read more at the website of the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association.

Are you prone to tendonitis?

foot-pain-from-tendonitis

Tendinitis can be severely disabling. It is caused by inflammation and or irritation to the tendon. Tendons are thick, ropey, fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones. It is a common condition that can affect the shoulders, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles and feet. If not treated early it can lead to a torn tendon or a ruptured tendon which would require surgery. Tendinitis usually responds well to conventional treatments which include anti-inflammatory medications, ice packs, rest and physiotherapy. This article discusses the signs and symptoms of tendinitis, causes and effective home treatments to ease symptoms.

 

Signs and Symptoms of Tendinitis

 

Signs and symptoms are the same for any area of the body affected with tendinitis. Symptoms can include a sharp pain, tenderness, a dull ache, swelling, redness, loss of movement and weakness. The swelling is caused by the build up of fluid in the joint which is a natural response by the body to promote healing. Pain can increase with any movement and many people will find they are unable to straighten the joint. Loss of ability to weight bear on joints is common.

 

Causes of Tendinitis

 

Lifestyle factors can influence the frequency of attacks. Making adjustments to how much stress you place on your joints daily can be beneficial. Being aware of the common causes can help reduce risk factors.

 

  • Overuse of Joints

The overuse of joints is the most common cause of tendinitis. Athletes are particularly prone due to the excessive stress they place on joints and tendons. Often there is very little recovery time between exercise sessions.

 

  • Work Related Tendinitis

Employees who work on assembly lines, work with machinery with strong vibrations, work in environments which require awkward body positions and or the work requires repeated movement of the joints can be at high risk. Tendinitis of the wrists and fingers is also common in office workers who continuously type on computer keyboards throughout the day.

 

  • Medications

Antibiotic medications which include ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin can cause tendinitis as a side effect. Symptoms can be mild to severe and can also result in a ruptured tendon. Children are particularly susceptible to this side effect of antibiotic treatment.

 

  • Age Related Tendinitis

Risk factors increase with age due to loss of elasticity and strength of muscles and bones. This loss puts extra stress on the tendons which can result in inflammation.

 

  • Stress

Stress can cause excessive muscle tension. Prolonged stress increases risk factors. People who have excessive workloads, deadlines to meet and or operating under high pressure can be prone to stress related illnesses.

 

Effective Home Herbal Remedies for Tendinitis

 

Herbal remedies are not for everyone. They can interact with your current medications; they do sometimes have side effects and can cause an allergic reaction in some sensitive people. Before commencing an herbal remedy always talk to your doctor first. Herbal remedies can be used as a complimentary treatment alongside conventional treatments.

 

  • Arnica

A poultice made with arnica can be applied to the swollen joint topically. Arnica can help reduce inflammation and swelling as well as ease the symptom of pain. It also aids in the healing process and can cause numbness.

 

  • Castor Oil

Castor oil applied topically to the area is an effective anti-inflammatory. It is best used at night when sleeping. Simply soak a cloth in castor oil, wrap around the affected area and secure with a bandage. Leave insitu overnight before removing in the morning.

 

  • Comfrey

Comfrey is available as a cream in most health food shops. It can help reduce pain and can help to reduce the inflammation and swelling. Simply apply over the joint every four hours.

 

  • White Willow Bark

White willow bark works similarly to aspirin. It can provide effective pain relief and reduce inflammation. It is recommended to take 60 – 120mgs per day. It should not be taken in combination with non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

 

  • Meadowsweet, Yucca, Licorice and Turmeric

Making a tincture of these four herbs and consuming a half a teaspoon three times a day can help accelerate healing times. These herbs contain natural anti-inflammatory properties which can help ease pain and reduce swelling.

 

In conclusion, tendinitis is quite common and can result in many days absence from work. Being such a painful condition it can severely disrupt normal activities of daily living. If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms discussed in this article, visit your doctor immediately. Tendinitis left untreated can result in severe complications.

Update:  I actually just read an awesome article about Peroneal tendonitis here.  Do yourself a favor a check it out!