Whether you are a professional athlete or play sports just for fun, your feet take a lot of abuse throughout training and competition. For instance, in a mile run your feet hit the ground about 1,500 times, at a force three to four times your body’s weight. The demands put on your feet and lower limbs can lead to a wide range of conditions and injuries, including ankle sprains, torn ligaments, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, heel pain, stress fractures, and more. Your running style, shoes, ground surfaces, and even minor limb length differences can contribute to injury. Some general common foot complaints among athletes include corns, calluses, blisters, Athlete’s foot, and toenail loss.
Here are some tips to keep your feet happy and healthy:
- Wash and dry your feet thoroughly every day, including between your toes
- Wear socks that are labeled as moisture-wicking during activity. Cotton socks can quickly get wet from sweat, and the moisture can cause blisters.
- If you have a painful blister, clean the area with alcohol, pop the blister and drain the clear fluid. Do not remove the outer skin layer, this is protection against bacterial and fungal infections. If you have concerns or possible infection, make an appointment right away.
- For painful corns or calluses, use a pumice stone or emery board to the thin the area. Apply moleskin or padding to provide comfort. Never cut a corn or callus, your podiatrist will do this for you.
- Trim toenails straight across and leave an overhanging edge, do not cut right up to the skin.
- If you have ingrown or discolored toenails see your podiatrist.
- Wear quality, appropriate shoe gear for your sport or activity. Footwear should be given the same consideration as any other piece of sporting equipment. Your shoes should be comfortable, protect as much as possible, be durable, and be right for the sport and surface. There should be a thumbs width between your longest toe and the end of the shoe when standing. Make sure your heel does not slip out when you walk. Feet swell during the day, so shop for shoes in the afternoon or evening when feet are the largest.
- When choosing a quality running shoe, the shoes should only bend at the toe joint or ball of the foot. You should not be able to bend the shoe in half or twist the shoe easily. These are signs of an unsupportive shoe or a shoe with poor quality materials. We do not recommend minimalist shoes due to increased risk of injury. Brands that Dr. Anna advocates include Asics, New Balance, Saucony, and Brooks. Many of these shoes also come in different widths to accommodate foot deformities i.e. bunions. Be sure to replace worn out shoes before causing an injury. On average, a quality pair of running shoes lasts 500 miles. Long distance runners often need to replace their shoes every few months or alternate between several pairs of shoes. If running, the shoe should have adequate cushioning in the mid-sole and a flared heel for stability.
- Ask your podiatrist about custom orthotics. They help provide arch support, cushioning, and heel stabilization for improved comfort and function. They also help to accommodate and slow the progression of foot deformities, i.e. bunions and hammer toes.
- When starting new activities or sports, always start with a low intensity and short duration. Then, slowly increase these variables on a weekly basis. Include a day of rest after new activities. This will help to avoid injuries and stress fractures.
- Always warm-up before exercise. Walk or jog for 10 minutes then stretch once you’re warmed up. Stretching cold muscles can cause injury.
- Cool-down and stretch after exercise. See “Does Stretching Reduce Injuries” for more information.
- Listen to injury warning signs. If your foot or ankle hurts during exercise, stop.
- At the first sign of an injury, following the pneumonic RICE.
- R Stop all exercise and sports.
- I Apply ice to the injured area for a 20-minutes-on, 40-minutes-off cycle, and repeat. Do not apply ice if you have diabetes or circulatory disease.
- C Wrap an elastic (ACE) bandage starting from the ball of the foot and then gradually wrapping up above your ankle.
- E Prop your feet up on pillows so your feet are higher than your waist while seated. This will help reduce swelling and pain.
- If your pain is severe or you still have mild to moderate pain after a few days, see your podiatrist. Call the office right away for emergency help if you can’t move or bear weight on your foot or ankle.