The foot is a marvel of engineering, and now is it more more than watching it propel the human body. The human foot consists of 26 bones, 33 joints, 112 ligaments, and a network of tendons, nerves, and blood vessels that all work in concert to allow human animals to run. The foot is the key to balance, support, and propulsion of a jogger's body. However, before starting any type of physical activity, including jogging, it is vital to ensure that your body's connection with the ground is in proper working order.

If you are considering starting a jogging regimen, it would be a wise investment of your time to visit a doctor of podiatric medicine for a thorough evaluation. Many beginners are sidelined with foot or ankle injuries, most of which could have been avoided with such an assessment. Podiatrists are able to provide condition advice, spot any potential problems and prescribe orthotics if necessary, and provide advice on running shoes.

If you are a seasoned jogger, periodic visits to your podiatrist can help catch any potential issues arising in the feet before they become painful. It takes 15,000 foot strikes at a force of 3-4 times body weight to cover 10 miles. Therefore, proper care of the feet is essential to maintaining longevity and the ability to reach your running goals.

It is recommended to see a doctor if you are over 40 and are planning to start an exercise routine. A thorough exam will include an electrocardiogram, check for any breathing problems, blood work and blood pressure testing before giving the go-ahead for a vicious exercise program.

Regardless of age, if you suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, weight problems, or other serious medical conditions you should be examined by your doctor before embarking on an exercise routine.

The Importance of Stretching

It is important to begin a good stretching program before beginning an exercise regimen. Stretching helps to reduce the chances of injury by increasing flexibility and reducing strain on muscles, tendons and joints.

It is always a good idea to warm up with a 10 minute walk or slow jog before stretching to bring blood flow to the soft tissues. Stretching should take 5-10 minutes, andought to be connected in a stretch / hold / relax pattern without any bouncing or pulling. It is important to stretch the propulsion muscles in the back of the leg and thigh (posterior), and not forget the anterior muscles.

Proper Footwear

Shoe choice should be made by foot structure (morphology), foot function (over or under pronounced or neutral foot), body type (weight), running environment and running regimen. After examining your feet, a podiatrist can make certain recommendations to you regarding what to look for in a shoe. Keep in mind that all shoes have a different shape, and sizes and widths are not standardized measurements – the are different for each different shoe manufacturer.

Other considerations should be whether an orthotic device will be placed in your shoe and whether your running style is flat-footed or on the balls of the feet. Shoes should provide adequate shock absorption and should be flexible through the ball of the foot. There should be no motion in the midfoot during running, and this can be maintained with a rigid midfoot area in the shoe. It is always best to buy shoes in the afternoon with the socks that will be used during your activity to ensure the best fit.

The best socks are those made of moisture wicking material such as Coolmax®, rather than being made of cotton. For more, see part 2 of this series