Foot pain is a common problem for athletes, active individuals, and young, lively children. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that foot or ankle injuries will interfere with your active lifestyle. Proper foot care involves recognizing problems and addressing them before they become serious. At Arizona Foot Doctors, foot injury prevention is our number one priority when it comes to your foot health. Below are ten of the best strategies to reduce ankle injuries and prevent foot injuries.
#1 – Condition your muscles before starting your sport or activity
The best way to prevent foot injuries is through good conditioning. When you exercise or start a new activity, there are different demands on the muscles, bones, and connective tissue of your feet. Proper strengthening and conditioning through warm-ups, stretching, and self-massaging will prepare you for the upcoming task and prevent muscle strains, pulled muscles, Plantar Fasciitis, and other painful conditions.
Conditioning for adults
Before your next walk, sports game, or outdoor adventure, make sure to stretch your feet, roll your ankles, and massage your heels. Following the below exercises will prevent foot injuries and relieve any pain you may be experiencing.
- Toe curls and raises. While sitting on a chair (at work or home), place your feet flat on the ground. Once relaxed, slowly move your toes and the balls of your feet up towards the ceiling. Hold for 5-seconds, then slowly roll your toes back to the floor. Next, lift your heels while curling your toes underneath. Your big toe and 2ns/3rd toe should remain touching the ground. Hold this position for 5-seconds, then slowly move your toes and heel back to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 8 – 10 times.
- Toe splay. Similar to the curls and raises, start in a sitting position. Once relaxed, slowly spread your toes apart while slightly lifting them towards the ceiling. After you have stretched all toes, gradually move them back to your starting position. Repeat the toe splay 10 – 12 times.
- Heel roll. To stretch your heels, place a golf ball under the ball of your feet while sitting down. At a slow pace, move the golf ball back and forth between the ball of your foot and your heel, applying slight pressure. Continue with this movement for 2 – 3 minutes before switching feet. If you’re experiencing pain or irritation, try this exercise with a refrigerated or frozen water bottle.
Conditioning for kids
Are you getting your family for game day? We recommend a 5-minute stretch before and after the big game, and before and after any practices leading up to it. It’s essential that your kid’s joints retain a full range of motion to prevent foot injuries, pain, or ankle stiffness. Having these 5-minute warmup sessions with your kids can also reduce stress and improve their performance.
- Minute 1 – Toe touches. While sitting down on the floor, outstretch your arms and hands to touch your toes or the ball of your foot. Hold it for 10 – 15 seconds then release and repeat. Applying slight pressure can be beneficial.
- Minute 2 – Toe stretches. Once you’re finished with toe touches, stay on the floor and start spreading your toes. Wiggle them back and forth, from side to side, and apart from each other.
- Minute 3 – Stepping heel stretches. On a step or small ledge, bring your heel(s) to the edge. Slowly lower your heels, holding the stance for 10-seconds, then lifting your heel, so you’re almost standing on your tippy-toes. You can perform this exercise with 1 foot at a time, or with both feet. Repeat this for 1-minute.
- Minute 4 – 5 – Roll your feet. With a golf ball or tennis ball, you can stretch your foot arch and toes by rolling it back and forth from your heel to the top of your largest toe. Spend about 1 minute per foot.
If you’re unsure of what stretches or massages you should be performing, book an appointment with Arizona Foot Doctors. Part of our foot care prevention program includes physical therapy—we’ll show you the best warm-ups to follow and how to stretch your feet properly.
#2 – Make sure your shoes are appropriate for your sport and your foot type
Athletic shoes are designed to address the specific challenges of each sport and activity. It’s best to choose the right shoe for your particular foot type to ensure your ankles, heels, and feet are protected. High or low arches, supination or pronation, each foot requires different corrections to provide comfort and injury prevention. When shopping for shoes, practice running, walking, jogging, and other warm-ups specific to your sport. Once you find your perfect pair, visit Arizona Foot Doctors to get fitted for your custom sports insoles for an added layer of protection.
#3 – Replace shoes regularly
In addition to wearing the right shoes, you should make sure to replace them when they show signs of wear, or when you notice foot pain or discomfort. Most manufacturers recommend that running shoes be replaced after no more than 500 miles of training—less for some runners. Other types of athletic shoes should be replaced if you notice wear on the soles or feel less support. To increase the longevity of your shoes or take a more budget-friendly approach for your family, consider Arizona Foot Doctor’s custom foot orthotics. Most insurances cover the cost of custom orthotics, also known as insoles, to keep your feet protected during daily activities.
#4 – Increase activity levels gradually
If you’re trying something new or returning to seasonal activity, don’t try to hit your stride in the first days of training. Instead, choose a gradual approach that allows your body to adjust to new stresses. If a gradual increase in unavoidable, make sure to condition your muscles before, after, and in-between practices.
#5 – Listen to your body
Make sure to pay attention to your aches and pains. Learning to distinguish between the soreness of a hard workout and the pain of a possible injury will help you to respond appropriately. Learn about common foot problems or visit the podiatrists at Arizona Foot Doctors for a professional diagnosis. Anytime foot pain or an injury prevents you from engaging in normal activities, it’s wise to seek medical attention.
#6 – Choose soft surfaces whenever possible
Soft surfaces absorb shock and cushion impact, creating less stress for your feet and ankles to absorb. Try running on a track instead of the road. Find a mat to stand on while you’re doing your conditioning.
#7 – Be wary of uneven terrain
Many ankle injuries are the result of activity on uneven surfaces. If your sport takes you over trails and through woods, pay close attention to the ground beneath your feet. To prevent foot injuries while running or hiking, make sure to find shoes or boots with a tight grip.
#8 – Pay attention to recurring foot injuries
Aches and pains that don’t go away with rest may be signals of an underlying injury. If foot pain, stiffness, or tenderness are limiting your activity or causing you to change the way you move, seek medical attention. Arizona Foot Doctors, Scottsdale’s top podiatry, is dedicated to finding conservative and effective treatments for individuals who suffer from long-term pain. Alongside treating your pain, it’s our goal to prevent foot injuries and ankle conditions.
#9 – Consider tape or a brace if you need extra support
Athletic tape and braces can provide additional support for strenuous tasks and activity. If you’re suffering from ongoing pain or feel any discomfort in your feet, pick up an ankle brace or foot boot at Arizona Foot Doctors. If you know you have the big game coming up or if you’re preparing for an activity, consider investing in a brace to prevent foot injuries and future ankle issues.
#10 – Vary your routine to avoid overuse injuries
Even highly trained athletes can be injured when they don’t include a variety of activities in their routine. Overuse injuries occur when the same muscles are used in the same way over and over without significant change, or without opposite movement to balance those demands. To keep your feet healthy and to prevent overuse sports injuries, make sure you’re engaging in activities that exercise all muscles in more than 1 or 2 ways.
Healthy feet are happy feet
For athletes, active individuals, and busy families, it’s important not to forget these foot care basics. Keep your feet clean, wear socks that wick perspiration, and make sure that all of your shoes fit correctly.
If you are experiencing foot or ankle pain, or suspect that you have an injury, Arizona Foot Doctors is here to help. Our experienced doctors and staff welcome the opportunity to provide you with the latest treatment options to keep your feet feeling their best. Our prevention and physical therapy program is focused on preventing foot injuries and future ankle conditions. To learn more, contact us directly.