Quarantine Running Tips for Your Feet (and Overall Health)
Springtime is running time in Western Pennsylvania! We hope that the warmer weather has you excited to get out and get moving.
Of course, this spring feels very different from any other we’ve ever experienced, for obvious reasons. Until this current COVID-19 situation gets under control, people are understandably concerned about leaving their homes and potentially exposing themselves to the virus.
But the good news is that outdoor exercise is still very much allowed, as long as you do it safely and responsibly. In fact, incorporating some safe running into your spring routine can boost the performance of your immune system, potentially decreasing your risk of serious illness.
The key here is “safely and responsibly.”
Tips For Your Feet and Ankles
Let’s start with the basics. In other words, these are some of the things that any runner is going to have to think about at any time, pandemic or not. (That said, COVID-19 could potentially require a few extra steps.)
Get the right shoes.
You should always have a pair of running shoes (i.e., not generic athletic shoes or shoes for other sports) that fit your feet and your stride well, and are still in good shape (usually less than 300-500 miles logged).
If you don’t already have a good pair, buying one right now is obviously tricky, as your options may be limited to delivery or curbside pickup. While we would typically always recommend that you try before you buy, we also can’t recommend running in the wrong shoes, either. When push comes to shove, don’t settle—and perhaps choose a store with a generous return policy in case you need it.
Start slow and listen to your body.
For many reasons, you may be tempted early on to do too much, too soon. Maybe it’s just the return of nice weather. Or maybe you’re trying to treat your cabin fever by getting out of the house as much as you possibly can.
Whatever your reasoning may be, though, overexerting yourself too early can lead to a much higher risk of injuries (heel pain, shin splints, ankle sprains, Achilles problems … you name it.) Your body is only conditioned to handle so much, and if you push it too far it’ll break down. The only way to increase its durability safely is to do so slowly, and give it adequate time to rest and recover.
If you’re just starting up for the season, go at a distance and pace that gives you a decent workout, but doesn’t leaving you wheezing or cause any pain. Then, only increase the intensity or length of your runs by about 10% (maximum!) from week to week.
If you find pain starting to enter the picture, try giving yourself more rest days and doing some low-impact exercises instead. Riding a bicycle is a great choice. Even going for a long walk instead of a jog is a good alternative.
Warm up and stretch before you run.
In addition to requiring more long-term conditioning, your muscles and joints also require a little short-term warming up before you start subjecting them to heavy, repetitive impacts. A few minutes before you start your run can be the difference between injuring or not injuring your feet!
We typically recommend a mix of both static and dynamic stretches. Static stretches are things like touching your toes or pulling your leg back from a fixed position, while dynamic stretches include things like lunges, squats, or even light jogging in place.
Just don’t hold your static stretches excessively long, as this can be counterproductive. And while it’s good to feel the stretch, stop anything that’s causing pain!
Tips for Your General Health
The basics are still very important, but we’re guessing they aren’t the only reason you clicked on this blog. There’s still the matter of COVID-19, and how to make sure your outdoor running doesn’t put you at greater risk.
We have some further suggestions about that.
To be clear, it’s okay to run alongside someone else who already lives in your household. But otherwise you should go solo. Even trying to run with an out-of-household friend while maintaining social distance can be problematic, for reasons we’ll get into in the next point.
Avoid routes and trails that are crowded or especially narrow.
Although we’ve all heard “6 feet” as the standard unit of social distance, a runner’s “breath space” is potentially much larger due to both speed and fluid dynamics.
In fact, recent research published by The New York Times suggests that 15 feet may be a better figure for runners, or even as much as 30 feet if you’re directly in front of or behind someone.
If there’s not enough space for you to manage that on your chosen route, you should choose a different one.
You probably don’t need a mask, but covering your face may still be the safest choice.
Although it’s possible that CDC and government recommendations may change on this, the current guideline is that masks do not need to be worn for solo exercise as long as you are staying completely away from others and are confident that you can fully maintain safe distance/isolation at all times.
That said, wearing some kind of moisture-wicking face covering (such as a scarf or bandana) is still good practice if you’re running somewhere you expect to encounter others at least occasionally.
And remember, proper masks should always be worn in situations where social distancing may be difficult to guarantee, such as on a trip to the grocery store.
Don’t go out if you’re feeling sick.
If you’re hacking, sneezing, coughing, or just generally feeling under the weather, there’s really no such thing as going outside for a run safely. You’re endangering yourself and others and need to stay home.
Stay Healthy AND Safe This Spring!
We don’t write these things to scare you, but to make sure you take your health seriously and know how to protect yourself and those around you when you do decide to head out for some glorious exercise and fresh air.
If you do develop a painful foot or ankle problem, we remain open and available to assist you, and are even offering telemedicine appointments for people who need to consult with us but don’t feel comfortable leaving their homes to do so.
So please, continue to call us if you have any problems. We take your health and safety extremely seriously and will help you make a wise decision about what your next steps should be, whether it involves an in-office appointment or not.