Foot, Ankle, and Leg Stretches…Part 2 (Strengthening Exercises)

What causes an overuse injury in a runner?

Overuse injury in a runner most often occurs because of a training error (running too far, too fast, too soon). With every mile that is run, the feet must absorb 110 tons of energy. Therefore, it is not surprising that up to 70% of runners develop injuries every year.

How can overuse injury be prevented?

You can decrease your risk of injury by following these recommendations:
•Do not increase running mileage by more than 10% per week.
•Do not run more than 45 miles per week. There is little evidence that running more than 45 miles per week improves your performance, but a great deal of evidence shows that running more than 45 miles per week increases your risk for an overuse injury.
•Do not run on slanted or uneven surfaces. The best running surface is soft, flat terrain.
•Do not “run through pain.” Pain is a sign that should not be ignored, because it indicates that something is wrong.
•If you do have pain when you run, place ice on the area and rest for 2 or 3 days. If the pain continues for 1 week, see your doctor.
•Follow hard training or running days with easy days.
•Change your running shoes every 500 miles. After this distance shoes lose their ability to absorb the shock of running.

What about orthotics to reduce the chance of injury?

Orthotics are inserts that are placed in shoes to correct bad alignment between the foot and the lower leg. You will probably need orthotics if the inside of your foot turns in, a problem called pronation. If you have bad alignment but no pain with running and you do not suffer from repeated injuries, you probably do not need orthotics. Many world-class athletes with bad alignment do not wear orthotics. Your doctor may suggest orthotics if you have bad alignment and become injured and do not get better with other measures, such as rest, ice application and cross training.

Strengthening Exercises

Straight-Leg Raise

Straight-Leg Raise

Lie down with your upper body supported on your elbows. Tighten the top of the thigh muscle of your injured leg. Raise your leg on a count of 4, hold for a 2 count, and then lower the leg on a 4 count. Relax your thigh muscles. Then tighten the thigh and repeat. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions each day. Once your leg gains strength, do the exercise with weights on your ankle. This strengthening exercise may be particularly helpful for patellofemoral syndrome or patellar tendinitis.

Straight-Leg Raise 2

Straight-Leg Raise

Lie on your unaffected side, tighten the thigh muscle of your injured leg, and then slowly raise the leg off the floor. Hold the leg up for a 2 count, and lower it on a 4 count. Relax your muscles. Then tighten the thigh and repeat. Do three sets of 10 repetitions each day. Once your leg gains strength, do the exercise with weights on your ankle. This strengthening exercise may be helpful for iliotibial band syndrome.

Straight-Leg Raise 3

Straight-Leg Raise

Lie on your affected side with the unaffected leg crossed over the knee of your injured leg. Tighten your thigh muscles and raise the injured leg about 6 to 8 inches off the floor. Hold for 2 seconds, and then slowly lower your leg. Relax the muscles. Then tighten the thigh and repeat. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions each day. Once your leg gains strength, do the exercise with weights on your ankle. This strengthening exercise may be helpful for adductor strain.

Standing Wall Slide

Standing Wall Slide

Stand with your back against the wall and your feet 6 to 8 inches away from the wall. Slowly lower your back and hips about one-third of the way down the wall. Hold the position for about 10 seconds or until you feel that the tops of your thigh muscles are becoming tired. Straighten and repeat. Perform 10 repetitions each day. This strengthening exercise may be helpful for patellofemoral syndrome or patellar tendinitis.

Straight-Leg Raise 4

Straight-Leg Raise

Lie on your stomach. Tighten your thigh muscles and slowly raise your injured leg off the floor on a 4 count. Hold the leg up for a 2 count, and then lower the leg on a 4 count. Relax your thigh muscles. Tighten the thigh and repeat. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions each day. Once your leg gains strength, do the exercise with weights on your ankle. This strengthening exercise may be helpful for hamstring strain.

Lateral Step-Ups

Lateral Step-Ups

Stand with your injured leg on a stair or platform that is 4 to 6 inches high. Slowly lower the other leg, striking the heel on the floor. Straighten the knee of the injured leg, allowing the foot of the other leg to raise off the floor. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions each day. This strengthening exercise may be helpful for patellofemoral syndrome and patellar tendinitis.

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