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Foot and Ankle Health for Trail Hiking and Running

Over the last decade, hiking and trail running has become increasingly popular worldwide and even in our very own backyard. You don’t have to be an ultramarathon runner to reap the physical benefits of hiking and running in the great outdoors. Shorter distances on local trails can do wonders for overall health, including increasing cardiovascular health (cardio fitness), muscular strength, stability and balance.

Even though trail running has less impact on your knees and joints than running on pavement, it is essential to ease into the activity if it is new for you. Overusing muscles with a sudden increase in training can lead to foot or ankle injuries. Pace yourself and listen to your body.

“Pain is your body’s way of letting you know when something is wrong. Please don’t ignore it or try to run through it. Watch for swelling, redness or changes in skin condition or color,” said Todd Skiles, DPM, Foot and Ankle provider at Skagit Regional Health.

Dr. Skiles has been in practice for 30 years, joining Skagit Regional Health in 2019. He currently provides foot and ankle care at Skagit Regional Health – Smokey Point and Skagit Regional Clinics – Stanwood. He treats a variety of foot and ankle conditions, including foot and ankle injuries, heel pain, bunions, ingrown toenails, diabetic foot and wound care and custom foot orthotics. When it comes to running, or any physical activity, he advocates for good, quality shoes designed for the activity one is involved in.

Common running injuries related to the foot and ankle include plantar fasciitis, tendonitis and stress fractures. It is essential to have the proper gear and maintain good foot and ankle health to help prevent injuries.

“Patients with arch or heel pain due to plantar fasciitis should wear cushioned and supportive shoes and may need additional arch support or custom foot orthotics,” said Dr. Skiles. “Improper trimming of toenails can lead to ingrown toenails and allowing corns and callouses to develop without treatment can lead to breakdown of the skin and infection – don’t ignore areas that blister or form calluses on your feet.”

There are several running stores in the area with knowledgeable specialists who can help fit runners, hikers and walkers with proper shoes and provide tips on the best local trails, running groups and upcoming races to help meet a runner’s goals.

Foot and ankle care is essential to overall health. “Daily inspection of your feet for any changes or areas of concern is a good idea. Prolonged or intense pain is usually a good indicator that you should seek a referral to a foot and ankle provider,” explained Dr. Skiles.

If stretching and proper shoes do not help reduce discomfort, Dr. Skiles recommends asking your primary care provider for a referral to see a specialist.

DISCLAIMER - As with any new activity, please consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new workout regimen, especially if you have been sedentary for some time.

Local city parks, forest service lands and state parks provide miles upon miles of trails. Here are just a few to help get you started. 

Two women run down a trail with a forest shown behind them.

Little Mountain Park in Mount Vernon
Cascade Trail (between Sedro-Woolley and Concrete)
Northern State Recreation Area in Sedro-Woolley
Bay View Shore Trail in Bay View
Deception Pass State Park on Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands

Skagit Runners
Snohomish Running Company
Greater Bellingham Running Club 

You don’t have to be a runner to reap the benefits of good health and enjoying the outdoors. Enjoy the same trails listed here and get out there!