As warmer weather eliminates the snow and ice on streets and pathways, many walkers leave the treadmill behind to spring into action outdoors. Walking up and down terrain can increase muscle strength but also increases risk of injury. Prevent shin splints and sprained ankles by taking some precautions.
- Progress gradually. If you are changing from indoor to outdoor walking, which uses muscles in a different way, don't increase the length or speed of your walk until your ankle, calf and leg muscles adjust.
- Warm up muscles by walking at a slower/moderate pace on a level surface for five minutes to begin.
- Cool down by walking five minutes at a slower pace and gently stretch leg and foot muscles. Breathe deeply and hold each stretch for 30 seconds without bouncing. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website illustrates flexibility stretches.
- Wear good shoes that support the foot well. If walking shoes are used almost daily and are over a year old, they probably need to be replaced.
- Pay attention to uneven walking surfaces to help prevent twisting of the foot. Also avoid cement paving and steep declines, which tend to increase risk of shin splints.
- Avoid the —weekend warrior— temptation. Cramming all fitness activities into just two days of the week increases risk of injury.
Questions?? - Contact author Jamie Goeffna, Extension Educator.