With outdoor exercise, a step of prevention is worth miles of cure

Published: 2011-05-23 10:39:20
Author: Andrea Boyarsky

  STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — With the warm weather picking up, many Staten Islanders are itching to get outdoors and in shape for bathing suit season. But doing too much too fast, wearing the wrong sneakers and not allowing the body to rest can lead to injuries if feet and ankles are not treated with some TLC. 

“A rule of thumb is if you feel a little twinge of pain, back off right away,” said Amanda Tripodi, a personal trainer, runner and member of the Staten Island Athletic Club (SIAC). 

“It’s better to lose one or two days of running than two or three weeks or months. The pain will eventually stop you from continuing a program.” 

She’s faced various foot injuries including heel spurs (extra bone on the heel), plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the tissue on the foot bottom) and Achilles tendonitis (inflammation of tendon in the bank of the ankle). With each misstep, she’s learned how to avoid these pains while continuing with the sport she loves. 

But it’s not necessary to be a seasoned athlete to avoid injuries. 

Runners at any level should wear running or walking sneakers, both of which are designed for forward motion, said podiatrist Dr. Jacqueline Sutera, spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association. 

She sees more injuries like stress fractures and tendonitis (inflammation in foot and ankle tendons) this time of year in her Manhattan and Emerson, N.J., practices. 

“Right now, everyone is on an exercise kick,” said Dr. Sutera. 

Those engaging in other outdoor activities or a gym routine without much running — like aerobics classes — should consider cross trainers, which work well for lateral, or side-to-side movements. There are also sneakers specifically designed for sports like basketball and tennis. 


Cycling shoes for bicyclists or avid spin class attendees are also available. They feature a rigid sole so the bottom of the foot doesn’t bend as much, Dr. Sutera said, and may also feature clips that hook onto the pedal, keeping the foot in place. 

“You really have to respect your sport,” she said. “It costs a lot to invest in these shoes, but later you can have arthritis, tendonitis, stress fractures or heel spurs — and some of these are hard to reverse.” 

Foot issues like bunions and hammer toes — toes that are curled downward — can also occur from the wrong size shoe. Although you may be a size seven in shoes by one manufacturer, you may need a larger size from another. “Wear the shoe that fits and also fits the shape of your foot,” Dr. Sutera advised. 

On Staten Island, Dr. John P. Reilly of Healthcare Associates in Medicine, P.C., in Bay Terrace, also sees a spike in exercise injuries this time of year. Everyone has “pent up passion and emotion,” the orthopedic surgeon said, and some overdo it on their first days back on the pavement. 

If runners try to take on their mileage from last year right away, the result of over-training could be Achilles tendonitis, or plantar fasciitis. 


When pain occurs, stop immediately, Dr. Reilly said, recommending the R.I.C.E. technique — Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation — a well-known remedy in the running world. You can also try an over-the-counter medications with anti-inflammatory effects like aspirin or ibuprofen. If pain or swelling persists for more than several days, it may be time to visit the doctor. 

“Most of the time, these issues will just disappear,” he said. “For people that are oblivious or don’t listen to their body and rest a little, it becomes more frustrating and difficult.” 

Making sure you’re properly warmed up is another way to avoid injury, say members of SIAC, which includes marathon runners and triathletes, among other athletes. 

The group’s Master’s team captain, Mario Ricca Jr. of Grant City, suggests light stretching and calisthenics along with a few minutes of easy running to get the heart rate up and blood circulating. 

“A prelude to injury is running hard or with great exertion on cold muscles,” Ricca said. 
After a workout, stretching is also important. He suggests four main stretches: pressing one heel back while leaning into a wall for calf muscles; placing one foot on a fence or elevated object for hamstrings; pulling your foot to your behind for quadriceps, and widening your stance from knee to knee to stretch the groin muscles. 

Ricca usually does three to four rounds of stretching, typically holding each stretch for four to 10 seconds before moving on to the next. 


It’s also important to take days off from running, noted SIAC member Marco Cammayo of Port Richmond, who recently received his personal training certification from the Virginia Beach, Va.-based World Instructor Training Schools (W.I.T.S.). He recommends resting after every two to three days. 

On days off, cross train instead, he said. Work out on the elliptical or stationary bike, which are low-impact exercise machines that are easier on the joints. Or, if you want to run again, make sure it’s a lighter, less intense workout. 

“You have to have your easy days and hard days,” Cammayo said. “Easy days are very important. If you do a hard track workout today and tomorrow you try to do a hard run on the roads, you are going to hurt yourself.” 

As for SIAC member Phil Jonas who has been running for more than four decades, working his core helps his performance. Although the West Brighton resident has genetic back problems, core strengthening is good for any runner and improves posture, flexibility and balance — all qualities that help avoid injury. 

Jonas also wears orthotics, shoe inserts that provide extra support and are often recommended by doctors in the prevention or correction of foot issues. In addition, he visits specialty running shops when looking for new sneakers. 

Stores like Road Runner Sports, which has locations in New Jersey, and JackRabbit Sports in Manhattan and Brooklyn, will perform treadmill tests to analyze the way someone runs and give them insight into the proper shoe for their foot. 

But top on his list of injury prevention was a sentiment echoed by the others. “It’s important to really listen to your body,” Jonas said. “Some assume always that more is better. More mileage isn’t always the best solution and running through injuries isn’t always the best idea.”