It may surprise you to learn that some of the information you’ve heard about feet and fitness isn’t quite accurate.
In fact, relying on these fitness misconceptions can damage your feet, lead to conditions like plantar fasciitis, and take you out of the game while you recover.
Time to separate fact from fiction!
Fitness Misconception #1: “Push Through the Pain.”
We’ve all heard expressions like “push through the pain,” “no guts, no glory,” or “no pain, no gain.” But for all of our expressions about continuing an activity despite the pain, this is extremely bad advice.
Pain is the body’s main signal that something is going wrong, that damage is occurring, or that something is about to break. While it’s okay to push yourself through mild tiredness or apathy about the idea of exercising, you should never ignore your body’s pain signals. If something hurts, stop what you’re doing to determine the cause, rest, and take steps to address the pain.
Fitness Misconception #2: Orthotics Are for Older People with Foot Pain
Orthotics have become associated with painful, older feet. But the simple truth is that young feet need support and cushioning too. High impact sports and running are two of the demographics with the highest rates of plantar fasciitis–demographics comprising mostly young people! Young or old, the arch of the foot is susceptible to strain, inflammation, and small injuries because of improperly fitting footwear, overuse, injury, or high impact activities. Proactively using orthotic inserts for extra support and cushioning can head off injury by raising the arch to the proper height and helping the foot distribute impact effectively.
Fitness Misconception #3: Form Over Function
In the world of fitness, it’s no surprise that different activities and athletic competitions require different types of gear and equipment. Most of the time, that gear is suited to the activity itself. However, in some competitive events, the style of shoes or gear has evolved to favor form over function.
For instance, in many martial arts disciplines, it’s customary to fight barefoot–a significant risk factor for plantar fasciitis and foot injury. And in “Strongman” and “Strongwoman” competitions, wearing shoes with a flat sole has become the norm, despite the lack of arch support these shoes offer. While flat or specialized shoes are recommended for sports like powerlifting and olympic lifting, the athlete stands relatively stationary as they lift the weights. Contrast this to strongman, where competitors do a medley that often includes running while carrying, pushing, or pulling heavy weights. While choosing form over function might seem wise to fit in or avoid making waves, it can have serious consequences for your feet over time.
Fitness Misconception #4: Running Barefoot Is Better for Your Feet
Barefoot running has seen a surge in popularity over the past decade, with many evangelists claiming that shoes unnecessarily restrict a healthy range of movement and cause atrophy in certain muscles and ligaments in the feet and legs. While running barefoot may benefit people whose feet are already trained for it, it’s not something you can jump into.
For those who haven’t spent months or years training, stretching, and strengthening their feet to be able to withstand running barefoot, properly fitting footwear that’s made for running will allow your muscles and ligaments to work properly and is much better for your feet from a safety standpoint.
Running barefoot is extremely hard on the arch of the foot, which distributes the weight and impact of the body while walking or moving. Without proper support and cushioning, a barefoot arch can quickly become overworked, strained, and injured, particularly on hard or uneven surfaces. Bare feet are also more susceptible to injury from foreign objects like glass, small rocks, and other debris.
Fitness Misconception #5: Stretching and Warm-ups Aren’t THAT Important
While warming up and stretching your feet and legs before an exercise session can feel perfunctory or unnecessary, underestimating this step can have serious consequences.
Unstretched muscles and ligaments aren’t nearly as limber, strong and flexible as stretched, warm muscles. And when flexibility and strength are compromised, muscles and ligaments aren’t able to move, bend, and stretch to their full potential–often resulting in injury. Make sure to do a dynamic warmup for at least 5 minutes before each workout, and don’t forget about your feet!
The correct information about feet and fitness can make all the difference in staying healthy and active. And by banishing these popular misconceptions about fitness, you’ll also make strides to banishing foot pain, injuries, and long recoveries!