Fitness Myths: Spot Training

One of the most common fitness myths is spot training, sometimes called spot reduction. Spot training is the idea that you can cause weight loss or muscle definition in one area without affecting other parts of the body. This myth is particularly persistent because everyone wants it to be true. Everything would be so much easier if only the infomercials promising “rock hard abs” and “buns of steel” — after just a few minutes with a specific product — were telling the truth!

What’s the science behind spot training being labeled as a myth? And how can you achieve real and healthy muscle definition?

How Muscle and Fat Work

Understanding how both fat and muscle function will help you understand why spot training is anatomically impossible. Fat makes up a layer between your muscles and your skin. Although it is true that fat is used as fuel during exercise, your body doesn’t care where the fat it burns for fuel comes from — and muscles do not take fuel from just the fat immediately around them. Weight loss is a result of total body metabolism. Often, factors that are beyond your control, such as genetics, determine where on your body you will lose weight first.

Muscle definition, then, is a balance of muscle growth and weight loss. When people dedicate themselves to one form of training or focus all of their efforts on one muscle group, they are doing themselves a great disservice. For example, many people set out to have “six pack abs” and commit themselves to doing enormous amounts of situps. This will give them very strong and large abdominal muscles, but unless they change their diet and lose the fat that obscures those muscles, the six pack will never be visible.

What Science Says

There are no reliable studies that support the idea of spot training. There are, however, several that discredit it. One of the most well-constructed studies to provide evidence against the concept of spot training was conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts in the 1980s. During the 27-day program, 13 male subjects were required to perform 5000 sit-ups. Fat biopsies were taken from the subjects’ abdomens, buttocks and upper backs before and after the study. Although the subjects only trained their abs during the course of the study, the results showed that fat decreased similarly at all three test spots.

In commenting on this study, the American Council on Exercise (A.C.E) suggested that these results highlight a possible reason why spot training sometimes seems to occur. When the exercise is difficult enough to burn a significant amount of calories, weight loss occurs evenly around the body — including the target area.

How to Really Tone Up

The spot training myth can become a discouraging stumbling block for people who want to increase their muscle definition. Although it’s not possible to tone just one specific area or muscle group, it is very possible to increase your overall muscle definition. Doing so is simply a matter of decreasing the amount of fat on your body, while increasing the amount of muscle.

One extremely effective method for accomplishing this balance is circuit training. This workout method involves a fast-moving strength workout that incorporates every muscle group, with no rest between exercises. This keeps your heart rate up, working your cardiovascular system much more than traditional strength training.

Spot training is a fitness concept that is simply not supported by any scientific evidence. Don’t let that discourage you, though: you can safely and realistically achieve a lean, defined body through a balanced routine of diet and exercise.

For information on other fitness myths see Seven Fitness Myths Busted.

What has helped you lose weight and increase your muscle definition? Please share it in the comments!


Seven Fitness Myths Busted

If I had a dollar for each time someone told me “running is bad for your knees”, I’d have enough money for a pretty nice vacation.

Luckily for me and all of the other runners out there, this information is outdated and inaccurate. It turns out that running may actually protect your knees from health problems, such as degenerative knee issues. A runner’s risk of knee injuries is only increased if they had a previous knee trauma, or if they have a family history of knee problems.

That certainly isn’t the only fitness myth out there. Here are the real stories behind other common exercise misconceptions:

Myth 1: You can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise. This may hold true for professional triathletes, but not for the rest of us. If you weigh 150 lbs. and run 3 miles, for instance, you’ll burn about 300 calories. That’s approximately the number of calories in a cup of oatmeal and a banana. Unfortunately, exercising doesn’t give you a license to eat whatever you like. You need to burn as many calories as you take in if you want to maintain your weight.

Myth 2: Weight training will bulk you up. Not true. Lifting weights will actually help you tone up and slim down: the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Only people who do intense strength training workouts and have certain genetic factors are able to build large muscles.

Myth 3: You can “spot reduce” certain areas of your body. Nope! You can do all the crunches you want, but that won’t necessarily get you six-pack abs. You’ll also have to do cardio exercise and eat a healthy diet, losing fat all over your body, before those toned abs will show up.

Myth 4: Yoga is an easy workout. Some styles of yoga, and certain postures, are both mentally and physically challenging. Yoga is generally a safe workout, but injuries can occur, so if you’re new to yoga you should start slowly and respect your body’s limits. Also, if you have any health issues, check with your doctor before you hit the yoga mat. “Hot” or bikram yoga isn’t safe for pregnant women, for example.

Myth 5: You have to exercise intensely to get results. There is no truth behind the “no pain, no gain” mantra. In fact, working out too hard can lead to injuries and burnout. Never exercise through pain. You can gain plenty of benefits through moderate workouts.

Myth 6: It’s always best to stretch before you exercise. Experts have long studied and debated the potential benefits of stretching. One thing is for sure, though: it’s safest to stretch after your muscles are already warm. So take a warm-up lap and then stretch, or save it for after your workout.

Myth 7: Machines are safer than free weights. There is a small but real risk of injury regardless of what type of weights you lift. Machines may seem safer because they put you in the correct starting position, but they’re only effective if they’re adjusted for your weight and height. You can still use incorrect form on many machines. Ask a trainer to show you how to use equipment so you can make sure you have the right technique and settings.

What’s your favorite — or least favorite — fitness myth?


10 Ways to Act Like a Kid That Are Good for the Mind, Body and Soul

Kids have fun. They run, skip, hop, jump and twirl freely. They play tag. They dance, even if they don’t know the right moves — who cares, as long as it feels good?

As we get older, we forget what it’s like to be a kid. Kids let their hair down almost all the time (except when adults tell them not to). They’re carefree. Most of them aren’t stressed out, checking their smart phones every minute. They know how to kick back, relax and have a good time.

Reverting back to childhood occasionally — to the days when you didn’t worry about your hair or your heels and would actually go play in the rain — is not only fun and joyous; it’s also good for your mind, body and soul. Play keeps you in shape and is the ultimate stress reducer. It helps boost your creativity and productivity, and reduces the risk of high blood pressure and hypertension.

Remember the proverb: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Play makes you happy (did you ever notice how often kids smile?). So give yourself permission to take a break, play like a kid and reap the benefits. Here’s how:

1. Go to recess. It’s time to step away from the computer and move. It’s important to stretch and flex and not sit in one position for too long, and wasn’t recess always your favorite part of the day? Take a few laps around your office, apartment or backyard; bounce a ball or just do a few deep knee bends, especially if it’s late afternoon and you’d really rather take a nap.

2. Hula hoop like Michelle Obama. The first lady is on a campaign to get kids moving, so why not adults, too? Make like her and spin a hula hoop around those widening hips. You’ll add some joy to your day and maybe even lose an inch or two over time — hooping is actually a full-body workout capable of burning up to 600 calories an hour.

3. Reminisce. Remember those games you loved from your childhood. It may be time to dust off Twister and bring it out after your next dinner party (just be careful not to send anyone to the emergency room; we’re not as flexible as we once were!). Or try jump rope, hopscotch, Frisbee or even a rousing game of dodge ball.

4. Get your groove on. Dance more. Isn’t that what the music during commercials is for? Get up and cut a rug during every commercial one evening, and soon you’ll be enjoying ads more than ever.

5. Head to the playground.  They don’t have to be just for kids. Hop on a swing and see how high you can get pumping your legs up and down. Recapture that feeling of freedom from flying in the air, and get a great leg workout in the process.

6. Play in the snow.  So what if you get cold? Wear long under wear. Make snow angels, have a snowball fight and take a few runs on a sled. It will get your heart rate running, and make that après-snow hot chocolate taste oh so good.

7. Make lemonade. Even if life isn’t giving you lemons. It just tastes good, and it’s reminiscent of childhood. Put some fresh mint in it… or add a splash of vodka (hey, you are an adult after all).

8. Move outside. Blow bubbles and chase them. Catch lightening bugs, or skip while holding hands with someone you love.

9. Build a sand castle. Spend the day digging and fortifying until you have something you’re proud of. Then let the waves bring it down — or have fun stomping on it to your heart’s content. A day like that will strip away the stress in your life and help you focus better when you’re back in the office.

10. Be silly. Don’t worry about what others will think.  Dress up in a funny costume and take a walk; buy a bunch of balloons and hand them out to all the kids you pass; eat ice cream for dinner one night. Just have fun doing the things you enjoyed once upon a time, or the things you wish you could have done.

What makes you feel like a kid again? Tell us how you get your inner child back, and how it helps you deal with life.


Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul, by Stuart Brown (Avery, 2009)

National Institute for Play,

Rest Periods – A Vital Part of any Fitness Routine

When designing their fitness routine — or even just talking about it — most people will discuss their strength training, cardio training, flexibility and diet. Few, however, will even mention their rest periods.

Most exercisers figure that if some exercise is good for you, then more is even better, but this practice can be counterproductive and even cause injury. Understanding what rest does for you body will help you appreciate the importance of rest days in your schedule.

What Happens During Rest?

Put simply, your muscles grow during rest, not exercise. During exercise the muscle fibers break down and your stores of glycogen, your body’s main fuel source, are depleted. This is true for both cardiovascular exercise and strength training. When you allow yourself periods of rest, however, the muscles adapt to the challenge by rebuilding and increasing in strength. Without sufficient rest, your muscles will continue to break down, leading to overtraining injuries.

The psychological effects of taking time to recover shouldn’t be overlooked either. Rest will give you something to look forward to during particularly difficult workouts, and leave you feeling refreshed and ready.

Symptoms of Overtraining

Overtraining can manifest itself in a variety of ways. When a particular set of muscles are not given time to recover and refuel, pain and any number of injuries can result. On a broader scope, overtraining can adversely affect your entire body — both physically and psychologically — by upsetting the delicate balance of the hormones DHEA and cortisol.

These two hormones have contradicting effects: DHEA builds muscle while cortisol tears it down. In a healthy, well-rested body they are used to guide muscle growth in response to the stresses of the environment. However, in an overtrained body, DHEA production is reduced and cortisol greatly increases. This is probably because cortisol, which is sometimes called the “stress hormone,” is released in response to periods of perceived starvation or danger, causing the body to cut back on expensive metabolic actions and horde fuel in the form of fat. This hormone imbalance can lead to exhaustion, mental confusion, moodiness, nutrient deficiencies, and increased blood pressure and cholesterol.

How Much Rest Do You Need?

Exactly how much rest you need in between exercise sessions depends on many factors, including your genetics, fitness level and overall lifestyle. At the very least, one day a week should be scheduled as a rest day.

A good way to decide how much rest you need, and when to schedule in your rest days, is by keeping a training log and paying attention to how you feel. A detailed log will allow you to see how your body responds to certain stresses and redesign your program accordingly. If, for example, you notice that your time for a distance you routinely run has increased, it’s likely because you were not properly rested, and you can adjust for future runs accordingly.

Active Rest

Rest and recovery doesn’t have to mean complete inactivity. Depending on your fitness goals, you may benefit more from “active rest” than from simply taking a day off. Active rest can generally take two forms: cross-training or a light workout.

Cross-training allows you to work in an activity that isn’t usually your main focus. For example, if your main sport is running, you may chose to strength train as a form of active recovery. If you usually ride a bike, go swimming instead. If you do try cross-training, though, it’s important not to overwork any muscles that are already sore from your normal workout.

Light workouts keep you involved in your sport, but at a reduced intensity. Although your total distance may remain the same as during a more difficult day, your heart rate should only be at about 70 to 75 percent of your maximum. As a general rule, on these “easy” days you should exercise at a pace that allows you to comfortably carry on a conversation. Runners World Magazine suggests that these light workouts should account for 80 to 85 percent of your total weekly mileage.

Although it can be difficult to take a day off or even take it easy on yourself, proper rest and recovery is a vitally important step towards reaching your fitness goals.

Have any tips for incorporating rest into your schedule? Please share them in the comments!


Born To Run

Not many people would say that they’re natural born runners. In fact, over 90 percent of people who train for 26.2-mile marathons suffer injuries in the process. But modern biological and archeological evidence both suggest that the human body is actually uniquely suited for distance running, in a way no other animal can compete with. The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico can routinely run up to 200 miles over two days through their mountainous homeland, wearing thin sandals, without sustaining injury. Other tribes around the world hunt by simply chasing their prey to exhaustion.

What makes the human body so good at running? And, if we are built to run extraordinary distances, why do modern runners frequently struggle against injury despite all the high-tech footwear and moisture-wicking clothing we’ve adopted?

Specialized Equipment

Some animals may be much faster over shorter distances, but several factors allow humans to run long distances more efficiently.

For one thing, we sweat rather than pant. The numerous sweat glands that cover our body — however problematic we sometimes find them — are incredibility adept at controlling the body’s core temperature. Our lack of fur also allows the system to function, since fur would get in the way of any moisture trying to escape the skin. Animals like horses are extremely fast sprinters, but they will overheat and tire out before a human runner will thanks to this cooling system. According to biologists Daniel E. Lieberman and Dennis M. Bramble in their paper “The Evolution of Marathon Running Capabilities in Humans,” a well-trained runner “can sometimes outrun even horses, especially when it is hot.”

The structure of the human foot also gives an advantage to the endurance runner. The big toe is unusual among mammals in that it is in line with the other toes, rather than diverging like another thumb. This creates a solid springboard for the push-off of a runner’s stride. The comparatively short length of our other toes also help make the human foot a more efficient machine. One study suggested that if a person’s toes were lengthened by just 20 percent, the mechanical work requirements placed on the foot would double.

Finally, the entire musculoskeletal system of the human body interacts in a fascinatingly complex way to give you a smooth, upright and balanced stride. Every muscle, bone and sliver of connective tissue works together to allow you to run. When it comes to powering that interaction, the muscles of the average person can store enough glycogen to fuel about 20 miles of running, according to the New York Times.

Why the Injuries?

If your body has so many features that should allow you to run enormous distances regularly, why have injuries become a fact of life for many runners? A number of factors are involved, say running experts. Since the muscles and tendons involved in running do most of their developing early in life, a largely sedentary childhood — which is becoming more common — can slow this part of the body’s growth.

In addition, artificial running surfaces, such as pavement, do not have the same amount of give as natural surfaces and can put excess strain on your ankles and knees. Thickly padded shoes may also force you to develop an unnatural stride by making it difficult for your foot to bend and creating a heel-first striking pattern.

To avoid injury, start out slow and increase your distance gradually. A good rule of thumb is to add 10% percent each week. Take walk breaks as needed, and focus on distance rather than speed at first. Make an effort to run on a variety of natural surfaces, and select thinner shoes that will allow your foot to work the way it was built to.

Personal trainers, especially those who specialize in running, can help you to develop a proper form. Running clinics and groups can also help you improve your technique.

Have you been able to correct your running form? Tell us about it in the comments!


Fun Ways to Eat Less – Try Chopsticks (or Get Naked!)

Who doesn’t like to play with their food?  It’s something your mother probably told you not to do, but now that you’re an adult, give it a try. Especially since it can help you eat healthy.

That’s the message preached by Bill Wurtzel, a jazz guitarist turned healthy food guru, in his book Funny Food: 365 Fun, Healthy, Silly, Creative Breakfasts.  The book features Picasso-inspired plates of edible faces and other fanciful concoctions complete with strawberry ears and parsley hair, pear guitars and carrot airplanes. A plate of cottage cheese never looked so appealing. His book is aimed at teaching kids to eat nutritiously, but he started out by entertaining his wife and co-writer, Claire, with creative eats when they first dated 50 years ago.

Funny Food made me think of other ways we can help ourselves eat healthy — and eat less. The biggest problem most people have when trying to lose weight is that our portion sizes are usually way too large. By the time our brain finally catches up and says “Enough!” we’ve already gobbled up many extra calories. So here are some other ways to control your portions and have fun with your food:

Stick to Chopsticks. My friend Tracey told me her father lost lots of weight by eating only with chopsticks.  Now there’s an idea. I know I eat slower and get a lot less in my mouth when I use them. So unless you are particularly skillful with the pieces of wood, your meals are likely to get a lot smaller.

Switch hands. Another way to snack less is just as simple: use your non-dominant hand. A study at the University of Southern California found that people who snacked using their non-dominant hands ate 30% less than those who didn’t. Switching sides seemed to disrupt the unconscious hand-to-mouth pattern, making people slow down and consume less than usual.

Focus. Turn the television off. Put the book or magazine away. If you aren’t distracted while you eat, you can savor each bite, concentrating on what you are consuming, and maybe stopping when you are full — not just when you’re finished. Take each meal or snack as an opportunity to describe your food – the textures, flavors and smells.

Downgrade your dishes.
 Then there are studies that show people eat less when they eat from smaller plates. A serving of pasta will look a lot larger when crammed onto a small plate; thus our brains think we’re getting a full meal and we end up eating less and still feeling full. On that note, using a smaller fork instead of a large dinner fork could be helpful, too.

Go Dark. Try serving food on dark blue or black plates. Dark colors apparently make us feel full faster. Red and yellow seem to stimulate our desire to eat and white plates decrease our awareness of how much we’re eating. So the best bet is to eat on a small, black plate!

Take it all off. My favorite trick of all to eat fewer calories comes from swimsuit model Marisa Miller in Women’s Health magazine: Eat naked! “Eating smart is all about having an awareness of your body,” she says. “The most obvious way to do that is by seeing it. So when you’re trying to lose weight, spend more time wearing less. I don’t think you could eat a plate of nachos naked – could you?”

Photographic motivation. I’ve also heard of people who post a photo taken of themselves looking their fittest – perhaps in a bikini back in the day – on the fridge, where they’ll see it every time they get something to eat. That sounds like pure motivation to put down the Ben & Jerry’s.

What tricks work for you to keep the pounds off, or to eat slower so that your brain realizes when you’re full?


Barefoot Running Basics

One reason running appeals to so many people is its simplicity. No advanced skill is required, it can be done anywhere and at any time, and you only need one piece of equipment: a good pair of running shoes.

Some people, though, believe running can be even simpler than that. Just leave the running shoes at home.

Behind the Barefoot Running Trend

It’s riding a new tide of popularity, but barefoot running is not new. People have been running barefoot or with less-supportive shoes for centuries — in fact, the modern running shoe wasn’t invented until the 1970s. But the barefoot trend is currently getting more attention thanks to best-selling books and a vocal community of fans.

Barefoot running enthusiasts claim there are many advantages to running without shoes, including improved foot strength, better balance, fewer injuries and a more natural running style. And while more research is needed, a few studies have backed them up.

Why the benefits? It may have to do with how the foot strikes the ground, and the effects of the design of athletic shoes.

- Foot strikes: One study found that barefoot runners usually hit the ground forefoot first (which is called a forefoot strike) or mid-foot first (a mid-foot strike). Runners who wear athletic shoes, on the other hand, tend to land heel first (a rear-foot strike). Heel-first strikers hit the ground at a force up to three times that of their body weight, but experts say forefoot and mid-foot first strikers hit the ground at a lesser force, which may lower their risk of injury. Running forefoot or mid-foot first may also help build foot and ankle strength.

- Athletic shoe design: Running shoes are made to reduce the chance of injury. The shoe absorbs some of the shock of striking the ground and the cushioned heel makes running more comfortable. But some barefoot running advocates say that arch support and stiff soles may weaken foot muscles and arch strength, which can potentially lead to injury.

Too Good to be True?

Before you hit the ground running without shoes, take note: experts from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) say that more research is needed to sort out the possible risks and benefits of barefoot running. It’s unknown if barefoot running really lowers the risk of injuries — no conclusive studies have been done yet comparing the injuries of barefoot runners to runners who wear shoes. In fact, barefoot running may actually cause problems. If you step on something, you could get wounded. In addition, barefoot running may put extra stress on the feet, since there are no shoes to help absorb the shock.

If you want to try barefoot running, check with your doctor first. Running without shoes may not be safe for everyone. The APMA says that runners should talk to a podiatrist (foot care doctor) with a background in sports medicine about all aspects of running.

Another Option: Minimalist Shoes

The athletic shoe industry is aware of the barefoot running movement, and is responding to it. Several companies now offer “minimalist” shoes, a middle ground between traditional athletic shoes and going barefoot. Depending on the brand, minimalist shoes may:

-Offer little or no cushioning, support or stability control.

-Have “toe slots” (like gloves, the shoe fits around each toe individually).

-Weigh half as much as regular running shoes.

-Protect the soles of your feet from injury.

Make sure to follow the directions that come with minimalist shoes. The manufacturer may suggest only wearing the shoes for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, once a week at first. And it may be best to start out running on a flat surface, such as a treadmill. Check out these LIVESTRONG treadmill reviews.

Have you ever tried barefoot running?


What You Should Know About Cleanses

Our bodies are steeped in toxins and chemicals on a daily basis, and these substances may have an impact on the body that modern science has yet to fully comprehend.

It’s understandable, then, that the most searched-for diet fads online are juice cleanses which promise to rid us of these harmful substances. But do these cleanses really help to detoxify our bodies? And are they safe?

A Variety of Programs

One factor that makes evaluating cleanses tricky is the a vast and ever-growing range of cleanses to chose from. These programs range from mild, short-term fasts to extremely restrictive and aggressive diets. Some even utilize enemas or laxatives and other supplements to further “purge the body of toxins.”

There is a common thread running through these programs, however. Generally speaking, cleanses consist of an initial “cleansing phase” that lasts two or three days and requires you to only ingest liquids. Depending on the diet, certain foods are slowly reintroduced. Sugars, prepackaged foods, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol are typically done away with indefinitely. The “maintenance phase” of these diets — the part you are expected to follow continuously — usually focuses on raw vegetables, fluids and high-fiber foods. Some diets are completely vegetarian.

Research and Evidence

There is no solid evidence to support the claim that toxins collect inside of our bodies, according to the American Council on Exercise. Even if these toxins did build up, toxicologist A. Jay Gandolfi and many of his colleagues are confident that the body’s natural system of flushing them out remains the best option.

Speaking to the L.A. Times, Gandolfi and Linda Birnbaum, director of the experimental toxicology division of the Environmental Protection Agency, explained why detox diets probably don’t remove toxins at all.

First, they say, most pollutants are fat-soluble. This means that high volumes of liquid consumption would do nothing to remove them (although this approach would remove water-soluble chemicals, such as arsenic). Because most toxins are fat-soluble they are stored in the fat, rather then collecting in the digestive tract. Interestingly, this means that the most effective way to speed up the body’s natural detoxification process is by losing weight. Birnbaum told the LA Times that slender people are able to eliminate toxins more quickly than overweight individuals.

In addition, there is nothing to support the claims that raw fruits and vegetables are any more effective at detoxifying than their cooked counterparts. Raw foods have a higher fiber content, but high fiber consumption will not help to remove chemicals throughout the gastrointestinal system. It is possible, however, that high amounts of dietary fiber could help to remove certain chemicals from the liver.

Potential Dangers

The real danger of these diets comes from their highly restrictive nature, especially if they use laxatives or colonics. These programs can leave you at an extreme caloric and nutritional deficit, especially if you live an active and physically demanding lifestyle. Among the many dangerous effects of depriving your body of needed nutrients like protein are a slowed metabolism and loss of muscle mass.

Should You Follow A Cleanse?

Some benefits do exist from these cleanses, but it seems that they are not directly due to detoxification. The decreased bloating and slimmer appearance are just a result of eating much less than your body is used to. Similarly, the improved complexion that followers of these programs enjoy is likely due to their greatly increased hydration.

This doesn’t mean that all cleanses are completely useless or dangerous. A short program lasting only one to three days, without any laxatives or similar products, can be a good way to audit your regular diet. Use the time to step back and examine your eating habits, clearing out any harmful foods and drinking lots of water. You should be left with a healthy, balanced diet that consists mainly of fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Ultimately, this type of cleanse can help you to root out unhealthy aspects of your lifestyle — but it will not actually remove any toxins from your system.

Have you tried a cleanse? Please share your experience with us in the comments!


Protect Your Feet

running shoesIf you’re an athlete or a gym rat, you likely spend even more time on your feet than the average person. For example, runners’ feet hit the ground close to 40,000 times during a marathon. So if you want to stay healthy, you need to make sure your feet do, too.

Not surprisingly, foot problems are some of the most common complaints among fitness buffs. (In my running club, people even brag when they lose a toenail!). Taking care of your feet is a must if you want to keep up your exercise routine, though, and these tips can help keep you on your toes:

1. Get a good pair of shoes. A quality pair of athletic shoes is a non-negotiable piece of equipment. Make sure your shoes are comfortable and fit well. If possible, it’s best to get professionally fitted for shoes at a specialty store for your sport. Experts will examine your foot and stride and recommend the shoe that’s best for you. Replace your shoes often, too. Most of a shoe’s shock absorption is lost after wearing them for 250 to 500 miles.

2. Choose your socks wisely. Make sure your socks don’t rub in certain places in order to avoid blisters. If you’ll be active in the heat, choose socks made with moisture-wicking material over cotton ones.

3. Care for blisters. Blisters are a result of friction and pressure, and are especially likely to pop up in moist (sweaty) conditions. Wearing good shoes and socks can help avoid them, but unfortunately, most of us still get blisters from time to time. When you get one, put a bandage over it. Resist the urge to pop it, because that can lead to an infection. If the blister pops on its own, clean the area well, apply a topical antibiotic ointment and cover it with a bandage until it has healed.

4. Watch for calluses and corns. Calluses and corns are areas of thick skin that are made up of dead skin cells, caused by pressure and friction from skin rubbing against part of the shoe. They can also be a sign that your foot is taking too much force in that spot. Well-fitting shoes may help you avoid corns and calluses, but if you do get one, there are over-the-counter products that can help relieve discomfort and treat the area. If these products don’t work, see your doctor for help.

5. Keep your toenails short. Trim your nails regularly, and see your doctor if you get an ingrown toenail or develop a painful black toenail. Black toenails happen when blood pools underneath the nail, often as a result of pressure from shoes that are too tight. Eventually, the black part of the nail will grow out or fall off.

6. Don’t ignore pain. Foot pain is not normal, and exercising through heel, arch, toe, or other issues can just make foot problems worse. Back off your workouts at the first sign of injury, and if your pain doesn’t go away after a few days of rest and ice, get help from your doctor. You may benefit from different shoes, orthotics or other treatments.

How do you avoid foot discomfort? I use my running shoes for running only, and walk the dog in other shoes. This lengthens the life of my running shoes.