Athletic Foot Care: Winning with Healthy Feet

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

Your feet have a fantastic design. Their shape, structure, and motion allows them to support weight, propel you forward, and adjust to surfaces underneath themselves. This makes them perfect for activity, including sports. Athletes need their feet to do all of these things well, since most athletic activities put higher-than-average force on the lower limbs—many times your body weight. To keep your feet at the top of their game, you need to invest in athletic foot care.

Feet Take a Pounding

When your feet strike the ground, they feel the force of your body weight pressing down on a hard surface. For some sports, this force can be up to 20 times your total weight landing on your lower limbs. All of that has to be distributed and absorbed by your foot structures.

When your feet are healthy and strong enough for your activities, they do this well. Over time, however, your feet can wear out and develop injuries. Feet that aren’t conditioned for strain are more prone to damage. On top of that, sports are unpredictable. Accidents happen regularly, sometimes causing significant injury to your limbs.

Athletic foot care involves taking steps to protect your feet and ankles and acting quickly to speed your recovery when accidents happen. It includes proper conditioning, warm-ups, regular foot care, appropriate shoes, and attention to any lower limb aches and pains.

Types of Injuries

There are two main types of sports injuries: overuse and impact. Overuse injuries are problems that develop over time from structures being subjected to repetitive forces they can’t really handle. This could mean you’re trying to do too much too soon, you didn’t warm up well enough, your work-outs are too intense, or you’re playing sports on biomechanical issues. Even wearing worn out or improper footwear could potentially lead to an overuse problem. Usually, the pain starts small and just worsens with time. Fortunately, these painful problems can often be prevented.

Impact injuries are unexpected accidents. You trip, fall, land a jump poorly, get knocked down, kick something—anything that sharply and suddenly causes damage. The pain is immediate and sometimes serious. Because these are unpredictable injuries, they can’t normally be prevented. However, good athletic foot care can help you resolve the issue and return to your activities pain-free.

Caring for Athlete’s Active Feet

To take care of your feet for sports, you need to make sure your lower limbs are conditioned for your activities. Start slowly and build in intensity over several weeks so your lower limbs have the time they need to build up strength and endurance. Warm up before every sport or exercise routine. This gets your muscles firing and you heart rate moving so that your body is ready to respond to more intense actions. Cross-train, particularly with low-impact sports, to work a variety of muscle groups and give your feet a break to recoup. Always wear the appropriate shoes your sport demands; they’ve been designed to provide your feet with the support they need for your activities. Don’t forget to replace them once they’re worn out. Wear fitted, moisture-wicking socks as well to protect your skin.

Listen to your feet, too. If you’re experiencing foot or ankle pain, take a break to investigate it instead of trying to play through. Many problems can be handled easily by simply treating the condition when it first arises. If you sustain a more serious injury, take care of it immediately, even if this means a little time away from your sport. Continuing to play on injured feet can compound the problem and potentially create chronic pain or permanent damage.

Athletic foot care is a normal, vital part of playing sports at any level. Your feet do a lot for you, so don’t take them for granted. If you’re at all concerned about your lower limbs in sports, or you’re experiencing foot pain, let us know at Parker Foot & Ankle in Houston, TX. See how we can help. Just call (281) 497-2850 or use the website contact form to reach us.