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The Best Cardio Exercise for a Foot Injury

author image Luann Voza
Luann Voza teaches both math and science in an elementary school setting and physical education in a college setting. A former fitness-club owner, Voza has taught group fitness classes in step, aerobics, yoga, Pilates and kickboxing. As a bodybuilder, she held the title of Ms. New Jersey Lightweight Division Winner. Voza has a master's degree in exercise physiology and a doctoral degree in education.
The Best Cardio Exercise for a Foot Injury
A woman is doing cardiovascular training in a pool. Photo Credit: mediaphotos/iStock/Getty Images

Your feet are subject to strain and trauma throughout the day. About 75 percent of Americans suffer from foot problems at one time or another. It is difficult to maintain an exercise program while treating a foot injury. Cardio training workouts that require your feet to bear your body weight are not recommended. However, it is possible to continue cardio training with a foot injury.

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Your feet function to support your body weight, absorb the impact of landing from an airborne position, maintain balance and propel your body in a specific direction. The size of your foot is relatively small compared to your total body size, which increases the strain placed on your foot while functioning. Your foot is subject to forces that are several times higher than your body weight, totaling hundreds of tons per day.

Injury Types

Foot injuries can be classified as acute or chronic conditions. Acute injuries are a result of a sudden trauma such as a fall spraining an ankle. Chronic injuries occur over time as a result of structural problems, poor footwear, poor mechanics or overuse, and repetitive movements. Examples of chronic injuries include stress fractures and tendonitis. Treatment consists of rest, ice compression and elevation for minor injuries. More serious injuries are treated with immobilization, therapy or surgery. Staying off of your feet is essential in the healing process. Any training that requires your feet to bear your body weight while moving is not recommended.

Training Effects

Cardio training requires your heart and lungs to work harder to provide increased amounts of blood and oxygen to your working muscles to meet the increased fuel demands. Typical cardio workouts feature continuous movements using large muscle groups for a minimum of 20 minutes. With the increased activity, your body draws fuel from calories supplied by food and stored body fat.

Cardio Exercises

Cardio training is classified as weight bearing and non-weight bearing. Walking, jogging, stair climbing, kickboxing and group aerobic classes are weight bearing cardio workouts. These should not be performed with a foot injury.

Workouts that can be performed while treating a foot injury are non-weight bearing cardio workouts, including swimming, rowing machines and cycling. These workouts are continuous and work major muscle groups, thereby providing cardio training benefits. Try deep water running, which is performed by mimicking a running motion under water while using a flotation device to remain in an upright position. Also try arm ergometers, which are bicycles that have arm pedals instead of leg pedals for movement.


Timing is important when planning an exercise program during treatment for a foot injury. Activity is not recommended until a physician's clearance is obtained.

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