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Most people remember sunscreen before heading out for a run in the sun, but be sure to take care of your feet, too.
Temperatures are getting just right for what the medical world refers to as "trauma season," said Michael Gottsman, a doctor fellowship trained in foot and ankle medicine.
While the sun beckons for us to run outside and jump into our favorite outdoor sports full force, it’s better just to take it slow, said Gottsman. Many injuries are caused by people jumping into activities that their feet are not ready for too quickly.
"I think that’s one of the most common things that we see — they overdo it," said Gottsman, a doctor with Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine at The Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville.
The best way to avoid injury, Gottsman said, is to work up to a routine slowly. He called it the "10 percent rule"; an athlete should increase the strenuousness of his or her activity by 10 percent each week until reaching the goal. If the goal is to run five miles, it should take at least four weeks to work up to that, Gottsman said.
"You can’t just go out and pick any activity and go to the max right away," said Gottsman.
Some of the most common foot injuries of the summer, tendinitis and plantar fasciitis, arch pain and bunions, can be avoided with a little forethought, appropriate shoes and a good stretch.
Gottsman said it is important to take five minutes just to stretch, spending at least 30 seconds on each particular stretch. Stretching after an activity also helps prevent overuse injuries like those common to feet, according to a news release from the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.
"A lot of people do a five-second stretch," Gottsman said. "That’s not enough of a stretch."
Taking care of your feet during summer sports also means wearing proper footwear. Summer athletes should do their best to try to match their shoes to their activities, Gottsman said.
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society said finding proper footwear may include being evaluated by someone who is knowledgeable in shoe wear and biomechanics, such as an orthopaedic surgeon, physical therapist or pedorthist — a specialist in using footwear.
But most shoe stores have staff that can pretty well match the shoe to the activity and the foot to the shoe, Gottsman said.
Cross-training and giving feet a little "off" time can help athletes avoid overuse injury in the first place, according to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.
Cross-training with low-impact activities like swimming or cycling can help athletes stay fit while their feet recover from high-impact exercise, Gottsman said.
But most importantly, Gottsman said summer athletes must listen to their bodies and respect the pain they feel.
"There are a lot of injuries that we all suffer as we participate in activities," he said. "Sometimes we run through the pain."
Gottsman said running through the pain is a no-no. Major injuries can be avoided by giving feet the proper amount of recovery time from minor injuries.
There are no restrictions on who should do high-impact activities, but listening to your body can let you know whether the activity is right for yours, Gottsman said.
"If they listen to their bodies to whether it’s painful or not ... they can do it as long as they’re comfortable doing it," Gottsman said.