Wearing inadequate and worn-out shoes is a common mistake for athletes, says James Losito, D.P.M., team podiatrist for the Miami Heat basketball team and professor of podiatric biomechanics at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla.
"Running shoes should be discarded after 200 miles to 400 miles of use and they should fit correctly," Losito says. "There should be a thumb-width of length between the longest toe and the end of a shoe. Failure to wear the correct shoe size can result in runner's toe, calluses, ingrown nails, fungal nail infections, and hammertoe deformities."
People also should purchase the right shoe for the sport. "Many injuries occur because someone is wearing a running shoe while playing basketball," Losito says.
Another common cause of athletic injuries is doing too much too soon. "Both overuse training habits and worn-out shoes could result in stress fractures, heel pain or heel spur (plantar fasciitis) or shin splints," he says. "It is important to start out slowly and increase distance, duration, and pace gradually. For runners, I recommend no more than a 10 percent increase per week."
Walking or jumping on hard surfaces and failing to stretch and do warm-ups may also cause shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and heel spurs. Losito says, "There is no solid evidence to confirm that stretching actually decreases the likelihood of injuries, but it makes sense to maintain flexibility through gentle stretching, especially following exercise."
According to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, the most common pain associated with jogging is runner's knee, which can be caused by rolling in or down on the foot. With aerobics, rising on the toes can cause an inflamed Achilles tendon. Stress fractures can be caused by running and other repetitive strain. Sharp pain, bruising, or swelling after a foot injury warrants medical attention. Contrary to popular belief, it's possible to walk, even if a foot bone is broken.