Foot and Ankle Injuries
Foot and ankle injuries are among the most common injuries people experience. Unfortunately, sports that include running like soccer, tennis, and track and field put athletes at increased risks for these injuries. This is because the feet and ankles are heavily used while participating in these sports. Thankfully, there are precautions sports enthusiasts can take to help decrease their chance of injury. Preventing foot and ankle injuries begins with a proper warm-up, conditioning and careful attention to technique.
Dr. Jeffrey McAlister, FACFAS, is a fellowship-trained foot and ankle surgeon that is experienced in preventing and treating foot and ankle injuries. Here are his tips on preventing foot and ankle injuries.
Tips for Preventing Foot and Ankle Injuries
1. Warm Up: Warming up before physical activity is key. We know you know this, but it’s often skipped. Warming up your muscles, including the bones and joints that your feet and ankles are comprised of, will not only help reduce your risk for injury, but aid in performance as well. A good warm-up may consist of light stretching, or a short walk or jog of just a few minutes.
2. Strengthen and Condition Your Muscles: Regularly conditioning and strengthening your feet and ankles through strengthening exercises and training is important. These exercises will help build both muscle strength and mobility. Cross-training or participating in different types of activities may also help build your muscles. Cross-training also gives sport-specific muscles a rest as you work different muscles in different sports and activities.
3. Protect Your Feet with Proper Shoes: Your feet are your foundation, therefore, it’s important to wear athletic shoes that are specifically chosen for your foot type. If you have a high-arched foot, find shoes with more cushion and a softer footbed. If you have “flat-feet” or a low-arched foot, opt for shoes that support both the front of your foot and your arch. It’s also important to make sure the heel and back of the shoe are stable and supportive.
4. Start Slow: Remember, it’s important to increase the duration and intensity of your physical activity slowly. We know, it’s tempting when you’re excited about a new activity to go all in right away, but hold back a bit. Playing sports at a high-intensity level (particularly those that involve running and jumping) after periods of inactivity, may put large amounts of stress on the unconditioned muscles and joints in your feet. When you don’t ease into physical activity slowly, you put yourself at higher risks of strain, sprains, and stress fractures.
5. Be Cautious of Your Surface: Running or training on uneven surfaces puts you at increased risk for injury. If you’re running on a natural trail, be aware of holes, debris, tree stumps and roots. Keep you gaze down on the path for obstacles.
6. Don’t Push Through Pain: Listening to your body is very important. If you experience pain while exercising or playing sports, don’t try to “push through it.” After all, you may be experiencing this pain because you may have injured yourself. Instead, limit or modify your activities until the pain subsides. And, if the pain gets worse, seek medical attention.