Two soccer players kicking a soccer ball

Does Wearing Cleated Shoes Hurt Your Feet?

In Wellness by Alnoor Ladhani, Chiropodist

Cleated sports, including football, soccer, and baseball are responsible for a host of sporting injuries. The plantar fascia, which is the ligament connecting the heel bone to the toes, is the most common area of sports related pain. The sufferer will experience sharp pains in the foot, which usually occur early in the morning. The condition is known as plantar fasciitis and can become extremely painful if not treated. The resulting pain is often so severe that athletes are unable to compete for extended periods of time.

Athletes, both amateur and professional, are usually heavily muscled or carrying a lot of body weight. Specialty foot care for athletes running for long periods of time is critical. Cleated shoes are, by design, lightweight with very little cushioning between the foot and the ground. This design allows for faster, fluid movement; however, it does not provide much protection for the athlete’s feet. When the design of cleated shoes is combined with the extremes in force witnessed on many sporting fields, it begins to become clear how these injuries are incurred.

Impact Related Injury

Studies into the causes of sporting injuries have found that Body Mass Index (BMI) has a high correlation with plantar fasciitis. Basically, the larger the athlete, the more strain the plantar fascia comes under. This is especially true of footballers, as they have to contend with running, tackling, and landing heavily on their feet. The resulting tissue stress can often lead to tears, which require reparative surgery and can even end an athlete’s career. Soccer players, however, also run a high risk of suffering from a multitude of foot injuries. Lightweight, cleated shoes provide little defence against sliding tackles. What’s more, unlike in football, a soccer player will spend most of the 90-minute period of play running. The constant impact of feet meeting hard ground is the perfect recipe for chronic foot injuries.

Sporting Dynamics

So it would appear that there are a number of factors which influence the likelihood of foot injuries in cleated sports. One significant factor, which merits further study, is how the dynamics of a sport play into the types and frequency of injuries. Although both runners and soccer players spend a considerable length of time in motion, soccer players are more prone to injury. A notable difference between the two sports is that runners typically move in a consistent direction, whereas soccer players are constantly changing direction. Additionally, when soccer players do change direction, the change is extreme. A 180 degree change of direction, for instance, will put much more pressure on an athlete’s feet than a runner moving in a straight line will experience.

Foot Care for Athletes

Much more study is needed in order to confirm what many athletic medical professionals already suspect. However, there is a definite correlation between cleated sports and foot injury. Studies into sporting injuries usually take one of two approaches. The first concerns studying injuries by looking at typical injuries sustained by body region. The second method deals with studying specific injuries, in order to identify a correlation between the injury and sport. Both areas of study are important in identification, intervention and the prevention of sporting injuries.

There will always exist an inherent risk of injury in contact sports. However, reducing the number of foot and other preventable injuries will go a long way towards protecting athletes. Improvements in the design of cleated shoes is also needed, so as to reduce the level of impact on the athlete’s feet. If the shoe is either too rigid or too flexible, the athlete is more likely to experience problems. However, the perfect cleated shoe has not yet been invented. The best foot care for athletes as it pertains to what is currently available is to try different shoes and find a design which offers the most comfort and protection.