As an athlete, you do all you can to prepare yourself for the game or competition. Or perhaps you train for the pure enjoyment of being a good athlete. You eat the right foods, you try to get enough sleep every night, and you maintain a healthy lifestyle. But what about your feet? There are a few foot care tips you might want to consider that can help maximize your training, as well as your overall athletic performance.
1. Know when to stop
The number one cause of foot injuries such as achilles tendonitis is overuse. Repeated pressure on the foot, especially when you're not used to it, can cause heel spurs, sprains, strains and other foot-related problems. Start your training slowly; if it's too late for that, then stop your training sessions when you're really feeling pain. This is nature's way of telling you to take it easy before you do some real damage!
2. Practice good foot hygiene
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it takes more than a daily shower to keep your feet clean and healthy.
- Use a gentle soap and clean between your toes. After bathing, always dry your feet completely. This will help keep fungus and bacteria away. A nasty case of athlete's foot can keep you from training as hard and often as you should.
- Change your socks often. That might mean several times a day if you train often or your feet tend to sweat a lot. Socks with special pads or moisture-wicking properties are highly recommended.
- Keep your socks, slippers or flip-flops on. Public places like swimming pool areas are breeding grounds for athlete's foot, fungus and bacterial infections. When you do go barefoot, clean and dry your feet thoroughly afterwards.
- Your shoes should be as clean as your socks. You might need more than one pair of trainers and you must keep them clean. Use disposable liners and never wear wet shoes.
3. Do warm-up exercises and stretching
A weak ankle is a rolled ankle. Remember to include your feet and ankles in your warm-up routine. Exercises you can do to strengthen your feet include ankle rotation, picking up small items from the floor with your toes, balancing on one foot and performing toe stretches.
You should also do negative stretches by standing with your toes on the edge of a stair-step and lifting both your heels. Raise one heel and let the other slowly drop down toward the next step. Ask your New Hampshire podiatrist for more foot strengthening tips.
4. Know your sport
- Running. Wear the right shoe for your gait and train on different surfaces. Studies show that harder surfaces deliver a harder shock to the body - and the foot. If you're going to compete on a track, you should train on a track at least some of the time. However, you should alternate your training runs on grass or softer surfaces to avoid problems due to repetitive shock.
- Tennis. Experts recommend padded socks for tennis players. It's also a good idea to wear shoes with ankle support, especially if you've suffered a previous injury.
- Beach and water sports. Don't wear flip-flops for extended periods of time as they do not provide enough foot and ankle support. Remember to wash and dry your feet with vigilance after being in the water, at the pool, or on the beach; and never share your towel. Wearing water shoes can help prevent cuts and injuries caused by broken shells, corals and other dangers in ocean waters.
- Hiking. Contrary to popular belief, thick-soled shoes are not necessarily the best for day hikes. Wear shoes that have flexible soles and save the thick, deep-treaded hiking boots for serious hikes across rocky, wet or high-altitude terrain. If your backpack weighs more than 30 pounds, wear shoes with a stiff shank and proper ankle support.
5. Choose the right footwear
Choose the right shoes for your sport and buy more than one pair. There's a reason why sports shoes are made specifically for each sport. Go to a specialized footwear store or ask your podiatrist for recommendations. Wearing the right shoes prevents ankle and foot pain due to serious injury.
Like the rest of your body, your feet need strength training and proper care. Ingrown toenails, heel spurs and fungal infections can slow you down and hinder your training efforts.Repeated impact, sudden movement, overuse and improper footwear cause injuries that keep you from maximizing your athletic training.
Don't neglect your feet; contact the friendly New Hampshire podiatrists at Nagy Footcare for more foot care tips. We can help you make the most of your sports training, and help you prevent serious foot and ankle injury. At Nagy Footcare, our best day is the day you wake up with no foot pain.