It’s really no big secret that regular exercise is essential for your physical health. Something that is perhaps not as well-known—or at least gets overlooked often—is the fact exercise can make a huge, positive impact on the health of your feet.
That’s really important, particularly because we all need our feet to get us where we want to go. (Except, naturally, for those who rely on wheelchairs or other assistive devices to get around.)
If you think about the things you love doing in life, there’s a strong possibility you would have a difficult time doing them without your feet, especially if you’re used to always having your lower limbs available.
Even if you don’t enjoy athletic activities—not everyone does, of course—you still have to walk places and operate the gas and brake pedals in your car!
So if you want to have choices in life and be able to do the things you enjoy, you need to take care of your feet – and being physically active on a regular basis plays a major role in this.
There are many different kinds of exercises you can choose, but running tends to be a great choice – one that contributes to weight loss, increased bone health, improved circulation, and better muscle strength and efficiency.
Sure, those kinds of benefits are great for the entire body, but let’s take a moment to look at how they can affect feet (in a good way!):
- Weight loss – You might not be aware of this, but the physical force on a foot that lands while taking a step when you walk is equal to anywhere between one-and-a-half and two times your bodyweight. Even though feet are naturally equipped to be able to reasonably handle the force loads, maintaining a healthy weight means they face less pressure and strain – and this means less injury risk!
- Increased bone health – We aren’t aware of this happening, but bones are in a constant process of replenishing fatigued cells. As long as you aren’t overtraining, a smart running program can help with this.
- Improved circulation – There is no point on your body farther from your heart than your feet. As such, blood already has a long trip to reach the lower limbs. Running improves circulation, which ensures the tissues in your feet receive the nutrients and oxygen they need to be in peak condition.
- Stronger muscles – When you strengthen muscles in your lower legs and feet, the tissues are able to better absorb the shock from impact. By reducing the amount of shock absorbed by bones, you lower your risk of stress fractures.
Your feet give you options in life, so you want to keep them strong, and running is one way to do this.
Now, regardless as to whether you are just getting started or have been running for many years, there’s something you absolutely need to know when you run – where you’re going!
For those who enjoy running on tracks (or are going to start doing so), this is pretty simple. After all, you just need to keep turning left around the oval-shaped track, and then make sure you keep a tally of how many laps you run.
There are a greater number of runners, however, who appreciate the freedom of being able to run different places and experience new scenery along the way. If this sounds like you—or you’re a new runner and think you’d rather take this approach—we’ve compiled a list of the top running trails in Northeast Ohio, and these include:
- Rocky River Reservation – This reservation spans eight communities and offers over 13 miles of paved trails for runners (and hikers) to enjoy. If your training incorporates especially long distances, you might even find yourself in Mill Stream Run Reservation (if you go far enough). Assuming the Rocky River Reservation’s 13 miles is plenty, you will be treated with an assortment of scenic floodplain forests, meadows, and wetlands. Along the way, you might also catch a glimpse of any of the numerous mammals and bird species that make their home in the reservation.
- Big Creek Reservation – Located in Parma, Parma Heights, Brooklyn (OH), Strongsville, and Middleburg Heights, this reservation runs parallel to Pearl Road (from Valley Parkway to Brookpark Road). Many consider the highlight of this reservation to be the lake-to-lake trail connecting Lake Isaac and Lake Abram and passing through 175 acres of beautiful wetlands. The 2.4-mile trail is designated as “all purpose,” so you will find an assortment of cyclists, hikers, and fellow running enthusiasts during your run.
- Sandy Ridge Reservation – Containing 310 acres, North Ridgeville’s wetland and wildlife preserve has been a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts since it opened back in 1999. Runners find the reservation to be a serene sanctuary that is perfect for “getting away from it all” when training.
- Shaker Lakes Park – In the historic Shaker Heights community—and surrounded by the Shaker Parklands—you will find this nature center that contains two great options for running trails. Depending on your natural inclinations, you might choose either the Stearns Trail or the All People’s Trail for your training session. Whereas some of your running trail options are longer, you should keep in mind these are on the shorter side. In spite of that, you can get quite the workout from tackling the staircases around the woodland routes!
- Black River Reservation – Nearly half a million people visit this reservation, including runners who appreciate 2-mile long Steel Mill Trail. This trail offers a juxtaposition of stunning views of both nature—the trail crosses the French Creek and Black River—and the steel mill. For those who want a longer run, the trail is connected to the Bridgeway Trail.
- Chapin Forest Reservation – Donated to the state in 1949 by Frederic H. Chapin, this park possesses nearly six miles of trails local runners and hikers appreciate. At the same time, this is also an outstanding place for other outdoor activities, such as camping, fishing, horseback riding and bird-watching.
- Ohio & Erie Towpath Trail – With approximately 110 miles of paved trails, you certainly have plenty of options when it comes to the Towpath. There are more than 50 different trailheads through Northeast Ohio, and the crushed limestone surface helps to reduce the amount of force placed upon your body (and lower limbs).
- Lake Link Trail – Connected to the Towpath Trail, this one-mile route is quick but still provides scenic views of some of the best parts of Cleveland. Going through the West Bank of the Flats, this new path enables you to see the city’s historical industrial scene and Lake Erie while you train.
Of course, a major appeal of running is the fact you can create a running trail pretty much wherever you want. No matter if you want to run through neighborhoods or more natural environments – you can blaze your own trail.
When you do, it’s important to make sure you have a proper pair of running shoes.
There might not be much equipment entailed with this type of exercise, but a quality pair of running footwear is absolutely essential. This means having shoes that offer sufficient cushioning, are durable, and fit properly (not too tight, not too loose). Even better is to make sure they work with your natural pronation pattern.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term—and many non-runners (and non-podiatrists!) are—pronation refers to a natural rolling motion your feet go through during the ground portion of every step. Too much rolling (overpronation) can lead to problems, and so too does insufficient rolling (supination).
Running shoe manufacturers are aware of this, so they create different models to accommodate different pronation patterns.
Not sure which kind you have? Check out the bottoms of your existing footwear. If you see excessive wear on the inner edge, you likely overpronate. Too much wear on the outside typically indicates supination.
Even better, though, is to come in for a professional gait analysis here at Ripepi Foot & Ankle Clinics. While you’re here, we can check for any underlying issues that could lead to big problems—and lots of pain—if they aren’t addressed. (Then, of course, we’ll create a plan to take care of them for you!)
One possible measure we might take to keep your feet healthy and safe is to prescribe a pair of custom orthotics. These versatile medical devices can resolve foot problems – but they also sometimes provide relief for knee, hip, and back pain (since adjustment in foot positioning can lead to better body alignment).
We hope you are able to stay safe when running, but in the event you do sustain any foot or ankle injury, be sure to come see us for professional care and treatment. Doing so is the best possible way to put the pain behind you so you can get back to your running program in the shortest amount of time!