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More than 24 million people participate in some kind of aerobic exercise, which offers a host of health benefits, including increased cardiopulmonary efficiency, strengthened heart and lungs, improved circulation, lowered cholesterol levels, and stress and anxiety reduction.
Because aerobic exercise involves quick lateral movements, jumping, and leaping for extended periods of time, proper foot care plays a vital part in keeping the entire body fit. Common injuries from aerobics often involve the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Improper shoes, surfaces, or routines, and straining muscles by too vigorous a routine can lead to foot problems. Experts say that hardwood floors, especially with padded mats, are the best surfaces for your feet during aerobic exercise. And don't forget to stretch all the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the leg, ankle, foot, and toes in a warm-up and cool-down periods before and after aerobics.
Proper shoes are crucial to successful, injury-free aerobics. Old sneakers in your closet are not the proper shoes for aerobics. Major shoe companies today have designed special shoes for aerobics, which provide the necessary arch and side support; they also have soles that allow for the twisting and turning of an aerobics regimen. Be aware that running shoes lack the necessary lateral stability and lift the heel too high to support aerobic activity. They also often have an acute outside flare that may put the athlete at greater risk of injury from the side-by-side motion in aerobics.
Aerobic shoes should provide sufficient cushioning and shock absorption to compensate for pressure on the foot many times greater than found in walking. They must also have good medial-lateral stability. Impact forces from aerobics can reach up to six times the force of gravity, which is transmitted to each of the 26 bones in the foot.
Because of the many side-to-side motions, aerobic shoes need an arch design that will compensate for these forces. Look for shoes with sufficiently thick upper leather or strap support to provide forefoot stability and prevent slippage of the foot and lateral shoe "breakup." Make sure shoes have a toe box that is high enough to prevent irritation of your toes and nails.
Two other tips: buy your aerobics shoes in the afternoon, when your feet swell slightly and wear the same socks (preferably made of an acrylic blend) that you will wear during aerobics.
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