What I Wish My Patients Knew Before They Started a New Workout Routine

Are you considering working out to drop a couple pounds from staying home? Maybe you're just looking to get in better shape? No matter what your reason for starting a new exercise routine, don't take one step without making sure you have the right footwear.

"Choose a shoe that is tailored to your specific foot type," said foot surgeon Jeff Armstrong, DPM, ATC with Roper St. Francis Physician Partners. "Also, consider the size and the shape of your foot, your weight, the type of workout you will do and where you will do it."

An athletic shoe store that specializes in running shoes has technology that analyzes your feet and assesses your running gait to select the right sneaker for you. "I see patients who decide to do a bridge run and just buy any new pair of sneakers but they aren't fitted properly," said Armstrong, a certified athletic trainer who has been a part of the medical staff for the USA Triathlon and Duathlon teams. "Then they come in with some type of sprain, strain or tendonitis because the shoe wasn't providing the proper motion control."

Armstrong says to think about whether you are walking or running on sand, dirt or asphalt. "The shoes you wear can affect cushioning and stability," he said.

However, if your workout routine consists of, say, running, hiking and biking, you don't need to buy three different pairs of sneakers. "You may just want a couple different types of shoes, because running shoes nowadays are lightweight and don't provide a lot of significant support," said Armstrong. "So if you're running and then will go walking on an uneven path with roots, you'll want another pair that's more supportive and stable than your typical running shoe."

The right shoes are vital, even if you're working out at home or dancing to a TikTok video. "It's always best to have some support," said Armstrong. "It takes stress off the soft tissue and the joints in your foot, but depending on the activity and how long it is, some people are fine without wearing sneakers at home."

Now that you have the right pair of shoes, it's important to stretch before and after your workouts, especially your feet. "Doing exercises to stretch out the plantar fascia, the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles gets them a little bit more limber so that you're not straining them during the activity," said Armstrong.

Armstrong recommends replacing your shoes about every four to six months or approximately every 300 to 500 miles.

"Put the date you bought them in the bottom of the shoe with a marker or make a journal so you have an idea of when you should replace them," he said. "Once the shoe starts to break down, it can lead to injury. You can also suffer from injuries if you are wearing inappropriate shoes, not getting enough support or just starting too fast."

Armstrong said some of the most common injuries include plantar fasciitis -- an inflammation of the fibrous tissue (plantar fascia) along the bottom of your foot -- Stress fractures, tendinitis and capsulitis, which is an inflammation of a joint.

"There's also neuroma, which is an inflammation of a nerve that develops scar tissue and creates pain, burning and tingling in usually a few isolated toes," he said.

To fix these problems, Armstrong says you may have to adjust shoe gear, take anti-inflammatory medication, ice it, or stop training for a few days. If your symptoms continue, it's time to consult a podiatrist.

"We determine what kind of activity you've been doing that's aggravated or contributed to your injury and evaluate your shoe gear to make sure it is the proper shoe for your foot type," said Armstrong. "Then we talk about treatments, including ice, stretching, physical therapy, steroid injections, anti-inflammatory medications and arch supports to try to ease those symptoms and decrease some of that inflammation."

Most importantly, before beginning any new routine, Armstrong suggests starting slow and building up to avoid injury. "You can't go out and just go hard five days in a row," he said.

Taking it slow, stretching and wearing the right footgear are the best ways to start any new workout routine successfully.

As the Lowcountry leader in adult healthcare, Roper St. Francis can take care of all of your healthcare needs. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call (843) 402-CARE or visit rsfh.com.