Whether you run round the track or hit the gym, you know the incredible benefits of sports. The physical exercise strengthens your heart and lungs. Exercise prompts your heart to work harder and allows it to deliver larger volumes of blood to your muscles. The lungs become more efficient in distributing oxygen to the blood and eliminating carbon dioxide.
Notwithstanding these benefits, sports demand enormous stamina and agility from your body. During play, many body parts undergo stress and top on the list is the feet. Athletes are susceptible to ankle sprains, tendinitis, bone bruises, pulled muscles, stress fractures, calluses and more. That’s why foot care for athletes should be a priority.
Is there anything you can do to avoid or minimize such injuries?
There are a few habits and practices that you can implement to keep your feet in tip-top condition.
What You Should Do
- Warm-up before any sport to keep your feet and ankles flexible. Injuries to your muscles, ankles and tendons may result because of inadequate flexibility of these parts prior to the sporting activity. The best way to keep them flexible is to perform several warm-ups. Before you play you should jog a short distance, jump a rope, walk briskly, sprint on the same spot for 5 to 10 minutes, or ride a stationary bike. After the sport, you should also ‘cool down’ with gentle exercises and stretches. That way, you’ll feel comfortable and less stiff the following day.
- Dry your feet and shoes to avoid a fungus infection. Use available powder or foot sprays to absorb moisture and reduce friction. This will keep the dreaded fungus infection at bay.
- To avoid any muscle imbalances and injuries, strengthen your surrounding leg muscles. These are the muscles that don’t participate fully in the sport. For example, you need to stretch and strengthen the front leg and front thigh muscles.
- Wear woolen socks, semi-synthetic socks or the cotton-wool blends to absorb moisture from your feet. Socks allow your feet to breathe easily. Don’t wear the 100 percent cotton socks; and remember to put on a new pair of socks after each activity.
- Use the right shoe for its intended sport. Shoes are designed for a specific purpose. For instance, don’t play tennis with your running shoes on; wear a court shoe instead.
- Do you have a friction or blister problem? Apply Vaseline and gauze. But don’t wait for a blister; prevent blisters and make your feet more comfortable by wearing thick, cushioned socks. You can also wear two socks with thinner layers.
Foot Care for Athletes: What You Should Avoid
- Don’t overindulge in physical exercise too soon. You should gradually build up the duration or momentum to strengthen your ankle and foot muscles so they can endure the pressure applied on them.
- Don’t attempt to ‘work through’ the ankle and foot pain. Assess the extent of the pain, and if it’s severe, visit the doctor.
- Avoid taking pills to eliminate foot pain. Instead, seek medical attention to address the root cause of the pain.
- Don’t try a 100 percent workout after a layoff or an injury to your foot or ankle. You many hurt your feet because it takes time to restore your muscle’s flexibility and strength after a period of laxity.
Got a Foot Injury? Here’s What to Do
The best way to attend to an injury is to treat it as soon as it occurs. You need to apply the “RICE” principle which means you should rest, put ice on it, compress the injured area and elevate it.
Here are more detailed steps you should follow when an injury happens:
- Rest the injured foot on a flat and comfortable surface.
- Add ice packs (or a bag of frozen peas) to the aching area immediately.
- Use a 6-inch bandage to compress and secure the area.
- Elevate the injured section above the level of your heart.
- After 10 minutes, remove the ice packs and re-tie the elastic bandage.
- Add an ice pack in one to two hours.
- If pain persists after 24 – 48 hours, seek medical attention.
If injuries such as ankle sprain, possible fracture or tendon rupture occur, you should seek medical care.
Always Be Prepared
Foot care for athletes involves taking precautions to prevent and treat injuries. The precautions may entail developing endurance, flexibility, strength and agility by performing warm-ups before and after play. You should also use the footwear designed for your sport.