First Light Healthcare

These feet are made for walking

Cape Byron Specialist Centre’s Dr Danielle Wadley, Orthopaedic Surgeon, shares expert advice on walking with feet and ankle vulnerabilities.

Today we are going to talk about walking. Yes, walking.
That movement you perform on a daily basis.
Whether it is a means of exercise, a form of transport, a social outing, walking is great exercise, and can have a positive impact on our general and mental well being.
Now is a great time to get out and walk, ensuring we maintain social distancing requirements.
However, not all walking is the same.

Beach walking and foot and ankle problems

Walking along the beach is one of life’s simple pleasures and we are fortunate enough to be living along some of the world’s most beautiful stretches of coastline.

However, beach walking can play havoc on vulnerable feet and ankles.

The sand can be hard packed, or very soft and uneven.
Particularly when swimming in the surf, the beach can be unpredictable. The combination of waves crashing into shore with great force, and the uneven surface underneath the water, which is frequently changing, creates a challenging scenario, particularly for those dealing with foot, knee and ankle issues.

Easy does it

If you have an acutely inflamed painful foot or ankle, for example very painful plantar fasciitis or insertional Achilles tendinopathy, then limited walking is for you.
If you are recently recovering from injury or surgery, then this is also your category.
This includes a recent ankle sprain.

It is best to:

  • Concentrate initially on your rehabilitation exercises first.
  • Then slowly reintroduce other forms of low impact exercise.
  • Examples are stationary bike or walking in a pool.

Remember, we don’t want to make the pain worse, or risk re-injury.

A great place to start walking in Byron is at the Byron Bay pool, right by the beach. You can then take a short walk along the beach front on the pathway.

Swing it sister

If your pain is less intense, or you are further along your recovery period after surgery or recent injury, then you should be managing to slowly introduce and increase more walking into your exercise regime. It is best to start with a pathway along the beach.

  • Ensure you wear supportive footwear. A good example are the Hoka One One shoes, which are well cushioned and have a rocker sole.
  • Begin with flat walking, then gradually increase inclines and stairs.
  • Gradually increase duration and distance each week.
  • Often it is better to go for shorter walks more frequently.

A suitable walk for this group is the Three Sisters Walk . Starting at Broken Head car park, this beautiful walk is 1.6km return (you can do a smaller section if needed), and features a well-formed track and occasional steps.

Now you’re walking

Once you have recovered out of the acute stage of inflammation or injury and you have participated in adequate rehabilitation, short walks on the sand, or longer walks with many stairs or hills, can then be reintroduced.

  • initially start on hard packed sand with shoes on
  • Work up to short periods in the softer sand
  • Remember: walk before you run!

A suitable walk for this group is Tallow Beach . The six and half kilometre stretch of beach between the Cape Byron Conservation Area and Broken Head Nature Reserve is perfect for mixing it up between hard and soft sand, and walking and running

Walk toward the light!

Once you are well recovered, you have minimal or no pain and your strength and endurance are improving, it’s time to increase the length and difficulty. At this stage, depending on your overall fitness, any persisting foot problems or enjoyment level, you could:

  • Increase to longer walks including combination of pathway and beach
  • Then longer walks on the beach
  • Eventually you will be ready for bush hiking again

A suitable walk for this group is The Cape Byron Walking Track. It’s a 3.7km loop but be accessed at numerous points and walked in shorter sections. It has a lot of steps and some steep sections. Starting points including Captain Cook lookout, The Pass, Wategos Beach and Cape Byron Lighthouse.

If you have any foot or ankle issues, please call the clinic to arrange a consult with your GP or Dr Wadley.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, walking in the bush.