Spring fever has a way of enticing eager walkers and joggers outdoors to put in some miles after long winter days spent inside or on the treadmill. The downside, however, is that our bodies, especially our feet, need readjustment before hitting the pavement. Too much too soon can result in foot and ankle inflammation, pain, and possible injury.
Just ask 34-year old Davenport teacher and runner, Breanna Fitzpatrick, who suffered a tendon tear from overuse. “I was playing soccer and training for a marathon and just thought the pain in my ankle was from a sprain,” she recalls. However, when the pain was so intense she couldn’t perform the most basic foot drills, she knew it was time to see a physician.
ORA Orthopedics’ podiatric foot and ankle surgeon, Russell Carlson, DPM, ordered an MRI that showed a big tear in her tendon. “Breanna had severe and chronic inflammation on the tendons located on the outside of her foot, and because it wasn’t treated early enough, the inflammation led to a tear,” he explains.
Dr. Carlson performed a minimally invasive outpatient procedure called an ankle arthroscopy. “Basically I used an ankle scope to clean up the inflammation in her ankle joint and sutured the tendon to repair the tear.
“I see a lot of patients this time of year suffering from inflammation, heel pain and stress fractures in the foot. The weather gets nice and people start walking again — but overdoing the exercise early in the season is hard on unconditioned feet. Typical stress fractures affect the middle foot bones (called metatarsals) and are the result of fatigue injury from overuse.”
Dr. Carlson, whose training includes treating injuries at the Chicago Marathon and other local races, now helps foot and ankle patients get back on their feet. He recommends the following tips to help stay injury-free this spring:
1. Get supportive shoes: running and walking shoes are the best. Dr. Carlson advises that serious walkers and runners go to a running shoe store where experienced staff can evaluate your foot’s arch for the best fit.
2. Stretch before and after your walks. Calf and leg stretches are key, and if you have heel pain, roll a frozen water bottle along your foot and heel to reduce inflammation in tendons and muscles.
3. Consistent pain needs attention: Don’t ignore foot or ankle pain that doesn’t subside with reduced activity over a 2-3 week period. Putting off or working through the pain can mean more significant injuries that sideline you later.
For Breanna Fitzpatrick, three months after her own ankle surgery, she was up and running again, enjoying her afternoons walking her dog. Her ankle was pain free: “It’s so great to be back on my feet!”