Sole Heat: Keep Your Runner’s Feet Young
Good News for Lifelong Runners
Lifelong runners are aware of all the mental and physical health benefits that running regularly can give to them. As you age, you need to make sure you are taking care of yourself. Each person is different, but most runners begin to experience slower running times, stiff joints and muscles, and become more injury prone. But there are things you can do that will help prevent foot pain such as using insoles for arch support and using sole heat to mold custom insoles for your foot.
A study by the American College of Sports Medicine reports that as we age our body fat increases, bone density decreases, strength is reduced, and we have a reduction in VO2 max. On average, a runner will slow down about 7 percent every ten years from their 40s through their 60s. This loss continues to increase after age 70. But that doesn’t mean you need to give up running.
In fact, you shouldn’t stop running as your get older because running has many proven health benefits for people as they age. It not only helps to strengthen your joints, but it has been shown to help reduce bone density loss and can even increase knee strength. Physical activity, even just 30 minutes a day has been shown to increase a person’s lifespan. A review of studies in the Journal of Nutrition found a correlation between exercise and a lower risk of some cancers. Plus, exercise is a mood lifter. Running produces endorphins that make you feel happy. Not to mention that running fights obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other ailments.
Modifying Running Workouts
The trick to combating rusty joints and other age-related problems is to maintain your running routine. However, trainers recommend that runners to modify their workouts as needed. Runners should continue to do the same sort of training they would normally do but to cut the workouts down to a shorter length of time. Studies have shown that by decreasing the frequency of training but by maintaining intensity runners can help slow the effects of aging. Stretching, lifting weights, and wearing orthotics are some other things you can do that will help you enjoy running year after year.
As we age our aerobic ability decreases. This ability is measured by V02 max, the maximum amount of oxygen a body uses measured by weight per minute. There are conflicting theories about why our V02 max declines as we age. The good news is that by continuing to run as we get older we can stem the reduction of V02 max better than if we didn’t exercise at all. Studies have shown that the effects of V02 max is better in runners than in non-athletes. Runners should continue to work their heart muscles by running frequently if they want to stave off a decrease in V02 max. Greg McMillan, a coach and exercise physiologist based in Flagstaff Arizona, recommends doing shorter races, 5ks and 8ks frequently because they give the body an excellent V02 max workout.
Some runners feel the effect of aging in other ways. As we get older the elasticity in our tendons decreases and flexibility as a whole becomes more limited. Duke University biologist Steven Vogel notes that the tendons are less elastic which can affect a runner’s stride. Our range of motion decreases as we age for the same reasons. The key to combating stiff muscles and joints is stretching. Stretching helps to maintain flexibility. Before a workout or run make sure to do dynamic stretches to get the blood pumping. After a run do static stretches. An alternative to extra stretching is to pick up another sport, such as tennis, in addition to running which can help to maintain the flexibility in your muscles. Additionally, foam rollers or massages can work wonders on sore, tired muscles. Getting a massage is another great way to end a tough workout.
Runners may notice that maintaining muscle mass is more challenging as we get older. Around the age of 40 muscle mass begins to decrease thereby reducing strength. This process accelerates around age 65. Unfortunately, for runners muscle mass usually decreases faster in the lower body than the upper body.
Distance runners have an added hurdle. People have two types of muscle fibers in their bodies, fast-twitch and slow-twitch. Fast twitch muscle fibers are used for things like sprints while slow-twitch muscle fibers would be used for distance running. Aging effects the fast-twitch muscle fibers more rapidly than the slow-twitch which is bad news for distance runners. The solution to maintaining the muscle fibers in your legs is to continue running at your normal pace. If you stop running, then the muscle fibers will eventually atrophy.
In addition to running, older athletes are well-advised begin weight lifting. Weight lifting has many benefits. It helps to minimize bone loss and muscle mass in older athletes as well as to help with arthritic pain. You will want to maintain an energetic weight lifting regimen regularly to have a positive effect on muscle mass.
Custom Orthotic Insoles for Runners
Another way a runner can compensate for the effects of aging on their workouts is to use orthotics. Runners love orthotics for a number of reasons. Orthotics insoles can provide proper arch support and reduce foot pain for many runners. Orthotics work by guiding the foot while running, helping the runner to avoid foot pain and injuries.
Not all orthotics are one and the same. There are orthotics whose main function is to provide cushioning to the foot. These cushioned shoe inserts help to absorb shock while running thereby reducing pain. This type of shoe insert is especially good for older runners who may not have as much cushion on the bottom of their feet as they used to.
If you have arch pain or plantar fasciitis a full-length using an orthotic that will provide arch support, cushioning, and help prevent pronation of the foot is a good idea. If you’ve injured your Achilles tendon or calf, you might consider using a heel lift. However, the heel lift is not made to correct problems. It only takes the pressure off your injured body part while you heal.
In the past runners who wanted orthotics only had the option of purchasing custom made orthotics at outrageous prices. Today there are several over the counter manufacturers that produce orthotics that do the same job as custom made insoles but are much more reasonably priced. By using your sole heat, you mold the orthotic to fit your foot.
Moldable insoles are the way to go. They do the same job as a custom made orthotic by molding to the shape of your foot. This type of insole is heated, usually in the oven, and then inserted into the shoe, which is then molded to the foot shape by stepping into the shoe. The combination of your body heat and pressure on the the warm sole will mold it. Using your sole heat to create custom orthotics is less expensive than having a custom orthotic manufactured for you. And it still provides comfort, support, and absorbs shocks to your foot as your run.
No one can completely stop the effects of aging on their body but by adding weight training, stretching, and modifying our training routines, we can reduce some of the effects. Overall, the research shows, and many would agree that regular exercise is beneficial to our overall mental and physical health and can help to prolong life.
So rest assured, if you are a lifelong runner, you won’t have to give up an activity that is pure joy. And by taking some precautions, it will help maintain your health through the years.