Caring For Your Active Feet

The foot is a pivotal component in the way we move our bodies, particularly in the area of sports. While some foot injuries happen purely by chance and are going to be unavoidable, there are those that can be prevented just by ensuring you’re using both the proper techniques and the proper gear. Here are some of the more common actions you can take to avoid injuries:

Conditioning: One of the most important ways to ensure you don’t experience any foot-related injuries is to be in the right condition for what you’re attempting to do. For example, if you’re not a frequent runner but you sign up for a challenging race, you’re running an exceptionally high risk of incurring an injury. Don’t push yourself beyond your capabilities. If you want to try something challenging, condition yourself over the course of weeks and months to build up muscle and control. Cross-training is very effective as you’re putting yourself through different ranges of movements and exertion.

Warm-Up: It’s imperative that you warm up before you engage in any type of athletic activity. Doing a slow jog or light stretches for two to four minutes before you begin will make your muscles more pliable, and will give them a fuller range of motion.

Don’t Ignore Injuries, Past or Current: If you’ve got weak ankles or knees, it’s important to wear a brace, particularly if you’ve been instructed to do so by a healthcare professional. Ignoring that advice, and continuing as you normally would can compound the problem – putting unnecessary force on the weak joints and contributing to long-term wear. Weak ankles and knees can also impact your feet, altering the way you walk, and put pressure on your heels and soles. Once you develop pain or soreness in your feet, you’ll find you can’t do much until the discomfort subsides so it’s important to address any issues that can affect our feet negatively. Always be aware of what your body is telling you—if something hurts and it shouldn’t, it’s time to determine the cause.

Use the Right Gear: One of the most important ways to prevent foot-related injuries is to use the proper gear. Shoes, skates, and ski boots should always fit you properly. Obviously, what determines a good fit varies depending on the type of footwear and the sport it’s meant for, which is why it’s important to consult a professional in order to help you find the best fit. It doesn’t stop there, however. You also need to wear the right kind of sock to give you the support and comfort you need.

Athletic Socks: These socks are engineered to provide you with the most ideal fit along with other key advantages. Specifically, they are designed to keep your feet dry and comfortable, as well as offer you enhanced support where you need it most. If you’re a hockey player for example, hockey socks give you additional heel support, whereas good ski socks come with tibial pads to prevent shin banging. If you wear the right sock for the job, you’re greatly decreasing your risk of foot injury

Orthotics Can Be Helpful: If an individual has some type of foot abnormality, deformity, muscle imbalance, bone spur or tight musculature, custom orthotics can make an enormous difference in preventing injury and contributing to performance.  Orthotics would be one component of the treatment plan to correct the problem or help alleviate some of the muscle imbalance that is causing some biomechanical deviation.  (As an example, an athlete may either be a supinator or a pronator – classifications which simply describe how the athlete’s foot is aligned.  If the arch of the foot is collapsing, meaning the arch is fallen to the floor, then the athlete is categorized as a pronator.

Knowing if the athlete is a pronator or a supinator allows him/her to purchase footwear that will support the deformity and minimize the negative impact muscle imbalances can create on the player, leading to less time away from playing due to injury.

If the athlete is a pronator, the tendons in the inside of the shin (notably tibialis posterior) can be put under stretch for long periods of time and the tendons on the outside of the lower leg have to work overtime and become irritated.  A properly fitted orthotic will correct the problem and both sets of tendons will be rested, resulting in less pain and the ability to continue to play).