Preventing Ankle and Foot Injuries

One of the best ways to manage sports injuries is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Often this is a simple matter of proper conditioning, flexibility, strength training and proper nutrition.

 

Ankle Sprains

One of the most common injuries for athletes, a sprained ankle can cause you to lose days or even weeks if measures are not taken to prevent it.

You can prevent ankle sprains by:

  • Wrapping, taping or bracing the ankle.
  • Selecting proper shoes.
  • Playing on properly prepared sports surfaces designed especially to protect the athlete.
  • Wearing running shoes with good shock absorption and quality construction.
  • Maintaining good levels of strength, muscle balance and flexibility.
  • Warming up before doing exercises and vigorous activities.
  • Paying attention to your body's warning signs to slow down when you feel pain or fatigue.

Athletes who have had a sprained ankle need to complete a supervised rehabilitation program before they return to practice or competition. If you have a moderate or severe sprain, you should wear an appropriate orthotic for at least six months. Preseason conditioning can help prevent an ankle injury while optimizing performance.

 

Achilles Tendonitis

You may never be able to totally prevent Achilles tendonitis, but there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting it:

  • Choose your running shoes carefully. They should have sufficient cushion on the heel.
  • Use prescribed orthotics to change the position of a poorly aligned heel.
  • Understand your limits and follow a sensible exercise program. Don't do too much too fast.
  • Walk and stretch to warm up slowly before running.
  • Focus on stretching and strengthening the muscles in the calf.
  • Take your time increasing the distance or speed you run.
  • Avoid sudden new activities, such as running up a hill or sprinting, if you're not used to them.
  • Cool down properly following exercise.

 

Foot Injuries

 

Blisters

If you have problems with blisters, you can reduce the likelihood they will develop by:

  • Wearing dual-layer or blister-free socks to reduce friction and moisture buildup.
  • Putting insoles in your shoes to reduce friction.
  • Breaking in your shoes gradually and making sure they fit properly before you wear them all day.
  • Correcting the way you walk, since an incorrect gait can cause friction.
  • Wearing shoes that are comfortable and aren't too tight.

 

Athlete's Foot

This fungal infection will usually appear under the arch of the foot or between the toes, wherever the moisture is the highest. It results in red and itchy lesions. The fungus lives on the outside of the skin and won't invade your system. However, scratching it can cause a break in the skin that can lead to an infection.

You can prevent athlete's foot by:

  • Wearing clean, dry socks when you run.
  • Using over-the-counter foot powders and sprays to keep your feet dry.
  • Wearing sandals in public areas such as showers and around pools.

 

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails can be prevented by:

  • Clipping your toenails regularly, particularly the big toes.
  • Wearing running shoes that have enough space in the forefoot to keep pressure and friction off the big toe.

 

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis can be prevented by:

  • Stretching the calf muscles before and after you run.
  • Wearing firm, motion-control shoes to limit pronation.

 

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are almost always caused by overuse. Stress fractures can be prevented by:

  • Cutting back on the intensity or amount of your running.
  • Running on soft surfaces such as grass or dirt trails instead of roads.
  • Changing your training to prevent a recurrence.
  • Changing your running shoes to ones with better shock absorption.