Help me help my feet
April 16, 2012 5:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for your personal recommendations for stretching and/or yoga routines to help make an unconditioned body more comfortable with too much walking.

I have to walk about a mile each way to and from the train station, which may not seem like a lot but my feet and legs are terribly unhappy about this development (they've always been more sensitive than others). Perhaps stretching before will make them hate me less? They really hurt, and it's not the good kind of hurt.

In my googling, they expect you to stretch after having walked for 5 minutes. But in reality, let's say I have about 5 minutes pre-walk preparation time, then I walk for 15 minutes, then I get on the train. What's the best way for me to prepare in this scenario?

PS. I saw the earlier questions about comfortable shoes for walking commute which I will take care of, and maybe a visit to a podiatrist or a massage therapist or some fancy insoles would be really nice, but right now these things compose #s 34-38 on my "Hot 100 list of Very Important Things I Must Have Right Now that Cost $100".
posted by bleep to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I would look up the correct way to do the basic Sun Salutation (do not shortcut, even if you can't touch the floor, to downward dog for very long, etc.) and just work on that. It will stretch out your hamstrings, quads, Achilles tendon, and plantar tissue, and make walking more comfortable. Plus, the more you walk, the easier it will get, as stuff gets toned.
posted by Danf at 5:21 PM on April 16, 2012

In my experience, what makes feet/legs hurt from walking short distances isn't so much anything muscular or to do with flexibility, but it's from impact combined with bad shoes. If your shoes pinch anywhere, wear different ones for the walk. Wear something with thick springy soles, if you can. And if you have the option, walk on grass, dirt, or gravel, rather than the pavement. This might mean walking NEXT to the pavement. If it's your calves and/or soles of your feet that are sore, these things will make much more difference than stretching will.
posted by lollusc at 6:21 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know you only mention your legs and feet, but if your hips feel locked up from doing all that walking as mine do, lemme suggest triangle pose. This pose helps me stretch out and tone my legs a bit. And if you really want to stretch out your hamstrings, try pyramid pose. It really is a tough pose!
posted by ditto75 at 6:38 PM on April 16, 2012

I agree with Danf - Sun Salutation when you get up in the morning would be a brilliant use of your available time.

If it's your feet that are giving you a hard time, do you know if it's a plantar fasciitis issue? Some additional plantar stretches might be useful if you're feeling it there - dour looking chap example here- While the cost of new shoes/massage and other things are down the hot 100 list, you may find some relief/alleviation of pain by grabbing some gel heel insert things (i saw them recently for around ~$10). You can also get supports for that area here's a link to an example product.

If you have a few minutes before bed at night to do some gentle stretches for hips/ lower back and legs that would also be good. Eye of the Needle would be a good stretch, and maybe do a psoas muscle stretch. If you're deskbound all day those areas can really get stuck and tight and also make it harder on your knees and whatnot. (I'm speaking as someone who has had a crappy time with that, rather than a professional).
posted by pymsical at 6:47 PM on April 16, 2012

If you're having trouble walking a mile without pain, you do not have a fitness problem, you have a medical problem. You should seek an appointment with a physiotherapist who can assess your posture and recommend a program of targeted, progressive exercise to reverse the atrophying movement patterns you have developed.

I caution against investing in yoga, which is by no means a panacea for postural problems, nor a scientific means of addressing any imbalances in muscular force couples. It's very likely that at least half your problem is down to joint hypermobility - stretching will only compound this problem. You have to strengthen also. And you have to do each in the right places without injuring yourself further. Hence: see a qualified physio.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 8:17 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

you can get insoles for cheap, actually, at the pharmacy.

Just another random thought, what about getting a cheap bike from a yard sale or Craigslist and riding it to the train station? You could lock it up there and then ride it home. It would be a lot easier on your feet. But I would also wonder why your feet are hurting after a 15 minute walk, that sounds unusual.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:21 PM on April 16, 2012

My favorite stretch for sore calves is this:
Find some stairs and face backward on them, placing the second half of the soles of your feet over the edge. Push the overhanging half of your feet downwards, towards the step below, and then raise up to your tip toes. Repeat. Does wonders!
posted by Jandoe at 8:47 PM on April 16, 2012

Feet hip distance apart.
Take a comfortable step forward with either leg so that your legs form an inverted "V".
Bend the front leg and feel the stretch through the back leg hamstring and under the front thigh. Hold this for a wee while, maybe 10-15 seconds. Breathe easy.
Swap legs.
Do it a couple of times for each leg. After a week or whatever, when your legs warm up and start to open up a bit, you can push it further/do it longer, etc. But don't ever push into a position where the front knee is pushed further forward than over the front ankle.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 7:47 AM on April 17, 2012

I love yoga and stretching, and I also love walking.

I absolutely would not suggest stretching without a good warmup first because it won't actually lead to increases in flexibility either in the short or long term, as I understand the physiology. Stretching is not warming up. I would warm up by jogging or skipping for 5 minutes.

Unless you are reaching the limits of your flexibility when you are walking (which should absolutely not be the case), you will not gain any benefits from yoga poses or stretches just before you walk. If you were playing a sport then 5 mins of gentle versions of what you were about to do may be important for going through your range of motion, but that doesn't apply to you.

I would say that comfortable shoes should be your first thought (I see you are working towards it) and maybe spending your extra 5 minutes walking more slowly so you get into it more gradually.
posted by kadia_a at 11:16 AM on April 17, 2012

I agree that it might help to know what kind of different types of hurt you're feeling when you walk -- for instance, types i've had: my feet sometimes have burning-ball-of-foot, my lower legs can cramp, my hips can feel tight -- and while stretching is good for the latter two types of hurt, there may be other factors for muscle pain/cramping (hydration, etc.)

Lots of good advice so far though!
posted by NikitaNikita at 11:32 AM on April 17, 2012

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