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Calf Pain

Calf Pain, Foot pain, Health, Shin Pain

Flip-flops and moon boots

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jandals profWhenever I see a patient with a lower limb injury come into the practice wearing flip-flops I cringe inside. Really, these simple bits of plastic are causing a lot of pain and injury and are not something you should wear all day.

Flip-flops absolute lack of arch or heel support puts you at risk of unnecessary pain and injury. We are (I am generalizing here) so careful to wear the best footwear when exercising, keeping up to date with the latest running shoes, orthotics, braces etc but when it comes to relaxing and what we wear outside of work and sport – we aren’t so smart. A study found that in a large shopping center, 43% of all women were wearing flip-flops(1) – That is a huge amount of foot, calf, shin, knee and back pain! Yes this may keep Physio’s and podiatrists in business but it keeps a lot of the population out-of-pocket – And often there is a very simple thing you can do to ease your pain and injuries….

Throw your thongs away!!

Really flip-flops aren’t that bad if you just wear them to the beach, around the changing room or shower etc – It’s when you start wearing them out shopping, to lunch, all day, everyday that they can cause real problems. What problems can flip-flops cause you may ask? and why? Flip-flops can lead to:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Stress fractures – Hence the moon boots
  • Shin splints
  • Calf pain and strains
  • Foot pain e.g. Mortons neuroma, metatarsalgia
  • Low back pain
  • and more

And Why?

Flip-flops change the way we walk

They wouldn’t be so bad if our feet weren’t so weak and de-conditioned. Yes we evolved to roam the open plains and jungles barefoot but now that we live in this concrete world – we need a little more protection for our feet. Also because we so often wear cushioned supportive shoes the rest of the time, our feet are not able to handle the complete lack of control and support when wearing flip-flops – Like sleeping on a nice comfy bed one night and then on concrete the next – You will get sore right?

And because they change the way we walk, we use our muscles in a different way, while increasing the shock going through and feet and legs due to lack of shock absorption. Wear them for a long time and the repetitive strain leads to overuse injuries. For example:

  • Every time you step, you need to squeeze and scrunch your toes to hold the flip-flops in place! Meaning your feet and calf have to work very, very hard = tight, tight calves.
  • Due to the total lack of arch support the arch can repeatedly over-pronate, increasing the stretch on your plantar fascia. Repeat this over hundreds of steps and you get micro-tears, inflammation and pain. You can read more about this here.

Good things in moderation

So, you don’t need to go and throw your flip-flops out but PLEASE limit the amount you wear them as they can be a huge cause of pain and injuries. This is also such an easy thing to change that can drastically improve your function and decrease injury risk, so why not do it huh?

jandalsAddendum: As a proud Kiwi I feel I should give a quick history on the proud origin of flip-flops.. or should I say Jandals! The flip-flops was originally invented in Auckland, New Zealand in 1950. The idea came from the original Japanese sandals which allied soldiers saw while doing occupation duty in Japan during WWII. The original name Jandal (Japanese sandal) was trademarked so that lead to other countries having t come up with other names such as:

  • jandals 1Flip-flops
  • Sandals
  • Slippers
  • Thongs, etc

So wear this great invention in moderation and save yourself a lot of trouble. Please Share, like and comment away!

Calf Pain, Lower limb, running

3 Best Calf Exercises: Keep your calf pain-free

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calf exercises for strain rehabCalves are a huge problem if they are not looked after – and often they are ignored until something goes wrong. Why not treat your calves right from the start to prevent injury and improve your performance. It is easy to do with the calf exercises I am going to show you today!

Far too often I see runners that have felt calf tightness or a little niggle and kept pushing through – only to wind up with an injury, stopping them completely! You need to run smart.

Calf Muscle Endurance is the key:

Yes, your calves need to be strong, but more importantly, the calf muscle needs endurance! If your calves lack endurance they are prone to any number of injuries including:

This is because as we run, walk and just stands on our feet throughout the day our calves are always being used and they slowly start working less and less – leading to other muscles compensating and bones being over-stressed. Men on average take around 7000 steps per day and woman 5000 – now that is a huge amount of work that your calves are doing!

Of course preferably everyone should be doing 10,000 steps per day for optimal health – 10000 step challenge.

This enormous workload that your calves are doing is why calf pain often comes on part-way into a run or walk or towards the end of the day, when they start failing.

Why do you need to exercise your calves?

As we mentioned earlier, calves take an enormous amount of load with every step we take. They are impacted as we go about our day as they support our lower body. To Prehab (preventative rehab!) your calves we need our calf exercises to improve:

  • Calf muscle endurance
  • Calf muscle length
  • Ankle and calf neuro muscular control

So here they are – Calf Exercises:

1. Calf stretch and roll:

calf stretch , soleus, gastroc - self treatment for shin splintsAction: hang your heel off a step as shown and hold for one minute each side.

Note: Static stretching (holding a stretch) before exercise isn’t recommended – It is best to do dynamic stretching or foam roll the calf as below.

You can also give yourself a good deep tissue massage with a Foam Roller:

MTSS shin splints self treatment

Action: as shown place the other leg on top to get more weight through and roll for 2 minutes each calf at least. When you find sore, knotty or tight spots, stick on them for a little longer slowly working into it.

2. Heel raises: 

Action: Standing beside a wall with one finger on it for balance, do 30 single leg heel raises on each side, performing one every second. Two times daily.

Note: If this causes pain in the Achilles or you have had or have Achilles pain – then you should do eccentric heel raises:

Action: go up with both heels (double heel raise), take the weight off the unaffected side and then lower slowly with the affected side/ side you are strengthening. Do 3 sets of 15 twice daily and if you have Achilles trouble then you need to do this for at least 12 weeks to rehab it well. (study)

3. Balance retraining:

Bosu ball, wobble board ankle and calf re-training rehab quickTo retrain balance and neuromuscular control through not only your calf but your whole lower limb (functional exercises have a great cross over into your sport) there is a number of tools you can use:

  • Bosu ball as shown in the image
  • Wobble board
  • Or you can fold up a towel and to make it tougher roll it up tightly and double up.

So there is no excuse for not doing this exercise as wobble boards are very cheap and affordable and you will have plenty of towels at home. This will not only improve calf control but also decrease the chance of and rehab sprained ankles and knee pain.

Action: Standing on one leg (don’t let your legs touch) hold it for one minute each leg, every day.

How to make it harder:

  • Add in hand weights, punching above your head
  • Add in heel raises
  • Add in single leg squats (obviously, don’t add these all in at the same time!)

Doing these three easy calf exercises every day will, reduce your injury risk, rehab current injuries and niggles and help you PERFORM BETTER, which is a huge bonus right?

Keep up the good work,
let me know how you get on and share it around!

You may also like:

Iron out your running: Easy tips to run faster, easier and free

Quick balance and stability test

 How Flip-flops make calves tighter and feet sore

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