Sport demands a lot of our feet, so we need to take extra care of them.
Playing sport regularly is a great thing: it's enjoyable, good for our health, our mind and recommended by medical professionals everywhere. However when we run, our body weight is multiplied up to three times, with our feet bearing the brunt of this stress at every stride (over 1,000 strides per mile, per foot). An average-sized man will process 112 tons of weight through each limb per mile.
The demands made on your feet and lower limbs can lead to a range of injuries, including blisters, sprained ankles, torn ligaments, shin splints (leg pain), knee pain, lower back pain and other joint or muscle problems.
Added to these are common complaints such as corns, callus and athletes foot. Asking too much, too soon of your joints and muscles can lead to injury. Running style, poor footwear and even minor limb length differences can also contribute to injuries.
As children take up a particular sport and become more active at school, foot and lower limb problems associated with unaccustomed exercise can occur. Growth, possible weight gain and increased exercise contrive to cause a wide range of painful foot and lower limb conditions. These complaints should always be taken seriously as failure to recognise and treat these overuse symptons can lead to long-term problems for the child and an inability to reach their true sporting potential.
Often the problem can be solved with footwear advice alone. Always remember to wear the correct footwear for that particular sport. Barefoot activities, ie karate, judo are good exercise for the foot but also cause problems due to the foot having a relatively lower heel from what is it is used to. Careful training and techniques are essential.
As in all aspects of foot care, prevention is the key. You can look after your feet easily by following these simple rules:
What if I have an injury?
Rest is best for minor injuries. You can then gradually return to exercise when any pain or discomfort has gone. If there are any cuts, wash them and cover with a clean dressing. Leave blisters unopened, if possible. I.C.E. ice, compression and elevation helps with most minor sprains and strains. If the problem is more serious, or if you are in any doubt, it is best to seek the help of a podiatrist. Podiatrists can treat a number of acute injuries, and can also help prevent injuries developing in the first place.
Five top tips when playing sport
1. Stretch, stretch, stretch!
2. Support your feet (good footwear).
3. Good foot hygiene.
4. Look after your nails.
5. Contact a podiatrist immediately if you have any concern.
Common sports injuries:
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Achilles Tendinitis
- Exercise Induced Leg Pain including Compartment Syndrome, Stress fractures
- Ligament sprains
- Muscle and tendon strains
- Stress Fractures
Football can place a great deal of stress on the foot and the more you play, the higher the stress. There can be a lot of friction involved, particularly when playing on surfaces such as astroturf. A player often stops suddenly and twists and turns. Likewise, when playing on hard ground the studs can result in pressure to the sole of the foot.
Football boots can also be quite stressful on the feet, particularly as most players wear a tight fit for better ball control. It is not uncommon for a footballer to suffer with pressure points, corns, callus or ingrowing toenails as a result of football boots. This is particularly damaging for those who are still growing.
Footballers often neglect their flexibility, which can be important in keeping a good posture, maintaining a wide range of motion at all joints and preventing injury. This is particularly important in those that are still growing. Teenagers can suffer from excruciating heel pain because they have extremely tight hamstrings or calves.
Once this flexibility is increased with a stretching programme, their posture improves and the problem is resolved. Sometimes prescribed insoles/orthoses are also needed to support the feet.
Having good balance and awareness is essential for football. This can be improved by wearing orthoses for those with flat feet, as it will help to improve proprioception.
A good, well-fitting pair of football boots is essential. There shouldn't be any signs of pressure on the foot after a game or training session. A pair of flip flops is recommended if using communal changing areas and showers, as this can prevent picking up any infections that can cause unnecessary problems. It is strongly recommended that these are used for this purpose only.
As with any sport involving running, repetitious actions can lead to stresses of all kinds. There are forces of high impact on the structures of the feet â€“ the toes, ankles, muscles, ligaments, tendons and the bones that support the feet.
These forces can be two to three times our body weight so it is easy to appreciate the damage that can be done. Other stresses may be a result of ill-fitting shoes and socks.
Lower back pain
Pain in the lower back may be an indication of improper gait during actions like bowling, or of structural limitations such as limb length discrepancies (one leg longer than the other).
Pain in the toes
Nails may become bruised or worse, lifted as a result of ill fitting footwear and will only resolve if replaced with better fitting shoes
The toes can become reddened or swollen due to friction from activity or ill fitting footwear . Nails can become jagged and cause an ingrowing toe
Pain in bottom of the foot (arch area)
Plantar fasciitis is very common. The pain can be mild to severe and is likened to a feeling of tearing under the skin in the arch while standing. It is usually noticeable in the mornings after rest, but sometimes it can be worse after a game or training session and may or may not involve discomfort in the heels.
Pain in heel
Retro calcaneal tendonitis is pain at the back of the heel area and may radiate up the back
of the leg a little, but not as far up as the calf.
Heel pain can be as a result of over use, poor biomechanics or due to the equipment not
functioning correctly or being too worn to function properly, such as a spike protruding in
the sole of the shoe.
Pain to the side of the foot near the outside of the ankle
This problem may be due to rubbing from inside the shoe, inappropriate shoe fitting or poor landing during the delivery of the ball while bowling.
Other problems affecting the foot can be related to hard skin on the soles of the feet such as
calluses, or corns and verrucae.
Cycling requires the entire lower body to function as a harmonious unit and bring sufficient force down on the bicycle pedal to move forward. This tremendous force begins in the hip joint and thigh muscles, and passes through the ball of the foot to the pedal. Deviations from alignment may cause foot, ankle, lower leg, knee, thigh or hip pain.
Every day, podiatrists treat cyclists who have sustained overuse injuries.
Common cycling injuries include:
- Achilles Tendinitis (improper pedalling, seat height, lack of warm up),
- knee pain with swelling popping or clicking ( biomechanical imbalance, improper saddle height or faulty foot positioning on the pedals)
- Numbness due to impingement of small nerve branches between the second and third or third and fourth toes (too narrow shoes, tight toe straps or shoe laces)
- Sesamoiditis â€“ the â€œball bearings of the footâ€ (proper fitting footwear and orthoses)
- Shin Splints due to muscle or tendon inflammation on either side of lower leg (orthoses to correct excessive pronation, lack of warm up)
Key tips to reduce the risk of injury:
- Cycling shoes must have a stable shank to ensure the foot does not collapse through the arch while pedalling. For casual cyclists, a cross training is sufficient
- Make sure your bike fits you properly ensuring seat is at the correct height â€“ with knees slightly flexed
- Warm up properly using the major muscle groups used in cyclcing - gluteals, quadriceps, calves and hamstrings. Start riding slowly building up speed
It is vital for dancers to keep their feet in premium condition so they can perform to the
best of their ability. Dancer's feet experience considerable wear and tear in comparison with the average person, due to long hours spent exercising, training and performing.
The constant pounding of your feet on the hard floor places immense stress not only on your feet, but also your legs and spine, as the feet absorb the full impact of the dance move. Ballet dancers who wear pointe shoes get cramped and crushed toes which blister and ultimately lead to deformity.
Common dancing foot problems include:
- Metatarsalgia due to landing on forefoot (alleviated by insoles or elastic strapping)
- Plantar Fasciitis due to tight calf muscles and/or excessive pronation (alleviated by orthoses/insoles)
- Exercise Induced Leg Pain due to excessive pronation (alleviated by orthoses/insoles)
- Achilles Tendonitis (alleviated by orthoses/insoles)
- Calluses due to forefoot loading and tight fitting dance shoes(alleviated by insoles or elastic strapping)
- Blisters due to rubbing from footwear/dance shoes (alleviated by 2 pairs of hosiery, anti-blister treatment or blister plasters)
The torque of a golf swing can strain muscles in the legs, abdomen and back. The fact that the game is usually played on hilly terrain increases these forces, and can lead to injury.
However, a full round of golf adds up to a four or five-mile workout that can reduce stress and improve cardiovascular health.
If biomechanical imbalances are present, these existing stresses will overload certain structures, and predispose the golfer to overuse injuries. Orthoses will equalise the weight load on the lower extremity and in essence rest the overused muscle.
Other problems, such as tendinitis, capsulitis, and ligament sprains and pulls can also keep a golf enthusiast in the clubhouse. Improper shoes can bring on blisters, neuromas (inflamed nerve endings) and other pains in the feet.