It’s been over one week since Niantic Inc. released Pokémon Go, the app that puts you in the center of an augmented reality on a quest to catch as many Pokémon as you can. Since then, the numbers are staggering:
21 million daily active users, making it the biggest mobile game ever in the United States;
33 minutes, the average time spent by iPhone users in the Pokémon Go app on July 11. Comparatively, iPhone users only spent 28 minutes in the Facebook app, 18 minutes in the Snapchat app, 17 minutes in the Twitter app, and 15 minutes in the Instagram app.
10 percent of all Android users in the United States have downloaded the game.
With the game’s release in both the United Kingdom and Germany taking place in the past 48 hours, and the impending release in India, the Philippines, Brazil and Japan, the ubiquity of the game shows no end.
A bonus benefit to the Pokémon craze? Reports of millions of self-defined sedentary gamers taking to the streets to walk distances ranging from a 5K to a full marathon (and more!). Exercise is good, right?
Yes. However, as any runner can attest, an increase in physical activity or intensity can result in injuries.
Victor Ornelas, senior franchise support manager of essentials for Fleet Feet Sports, says that like a person picking up running for the first time, Pokémon gamers should share a lot of the same considerations when it comes to trying to “catch ‘em all.”
“In programs like our No Boundaries 5K training program, we see a majority of people who transition out of a predominantly sedentary lifestyle into one with more physical activity, more muscle use, and more intensity,” Ornelas says.
“With that, and really with any time you engage muscles you haven’t engaged before, you have the potential to feel some fatigue or pain. I view the Pokémon Go phenomenon and its participants in a similar fashion. You have millions of people hitting the streets walking for longer periods of time than they ever have before. The risk for pain or injury will be there.”
Drawing on the same conversations he and Fleet Feet Sports’ fit specialists have had in-store with some of the one million No Boundaries participants since 2008, Ornelas discusses common ailments and offers gamers some tips to consider before seeking out the nearest PokéSpot:
Plantar Fasciitis—the most common injury occurring at the hind foot—happens when the fascia on the plantar aspect of the foot becomes irritated or swollen.
Among the causes? A sudden increase in activity, intensity, or type; shoes with poor cushioning or support; occupations with prolonged standing or walking; obesity; sudden weight gain.
Symptoms include burning pain at the attachment of the plantar fascia on the heel. Pain is usually worse in the morning or with heel push off.
A product to consider: The Strassburg Sock. This is an easy-to-use, inexpensive device designed to keep tension on the tissue (plantar fascia) so it heals in a stretched position. When worn appropriately, the involuntary stretching of the plantar fascia over long periods of time allows the plantar fascia to not contract, reducing tension.
Shin splints—a catchall term for overuse problems affecting the lower legs—can occur with sudden changes in running and / or walking surface, distance, or speed.
Symptoms include pain that typically starts at the beginning of an activity and gradually decreases as the muscles warm up. Pain typically reoccurs after the activity is done. A person can experience point tenderness along the affected muscles.
A product to consider: Superfeet Premium Insoles, which help adapt the flat, two-dimensional midsole of your footwear to your three-dimensional foot. The distinct Superfeet shape helps stabilize the foot, while the deep, structured heel cup and full-length foam provide support and comfort.
Metatarsalgia (forefoot pain), callouses, blisters, and black toe nails are all common ailments for your toes: metatarsalgia literally means "pain in the metatarsals;" callouses are a build-up of hard, dead skin over an area with friction; blisters are results of the body trying to protect its skin from friction; and black toe nails are a result of pressure and / or irritation at the distal end of the toes.
There are several possible causes for these ailments, including ill-fitting footwear, excessive training (or in this case, walking), hammer toes, mallet toes, claw toes, and rigid and / or hyper-mobile feet.
Symptoms include pain or tenderness on the plantar aspect of the foot in the metatarsal area. Other less-likely, but still possible, symptoms include burning, tingling or loss of sensation in the toes.
The best solution? You want to protect the toes, says Ornelas, so a professional fitting for the appropriate running and / or walking shoe can help.
“A fit specialist can match the shape of the foot to the shape of a shoe, especially in the toe box area,” says Ornelas. “Additionally, the fit specialist can make sure there is a half-size from the end of the longest toes to the end of the shoe.”
Complement the appropriate shoe with a pair of high-needle count synthetic socks (Ornelas recommends a fresh pair of Balega socks) which will manage moisture and reduce friction inside the shoe.
And while minding your feet and legs is critical, Ornelas cautions against forgetting about the rest of your body.
“Just like runners who are out in the hot weather for long periods of time, Pokémon Go gamers will want to stay hydrated, use an electrolyte drink mix to replace vital nutrients and minerals like sodium and potassium, protect their skin against sunburn, and wear moisture-wicking performance fabric to minimize chafing and maximize cooling,” Ornelas says.
“We always tell our runners to be smart, be prepared, and take care of your body properly before, during, and after an activity. Rolling out your leg muscles post-game with an Addaday stick will also help keep muscles from tightening up the next day.”
A University of North Carolina graduate who holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science, Ornelas also worked at Duke University Medical Center as a fitness specialist for the Live for Life Corporate Wellness Program. For the record, Ornelas still enjoys the outdoors in the actual reality, not the augmented one.