Simple Tips for Avoiding Sports Injuries
Whether you started getting serious about exercise only recently, or you’ve been pursuing personal bests for years now, making an effort to be active is something you should always feel proud about.
We love seeing our patients live active lifestyles, because it means their feet and ankles are likely receiving some great conditioning in strength and range of motion that will help them well into the future. We will always do all we can to help you stay active and moving well!
But just like many other things in life, sometimes attempts at self-improvement can accidentally result in harm. That can certainly be the case if exercise leads to painful sports injuries in the feet and ankles.
However, that is no reason to hang up your shoes!
While it’s impossible for anyone to completely eliminate their risk of injury – accidents happen, of course – the good news is that a great deal of problems are the result of the choices an athlete makes. Making wise decisions and approaching physical activity the right way can significantly reduce your injury risk.
You don’t already have to be a fitness expert to start, either. Here are some common-sense tips that active folks of all fitness and ability levels should keep in mind.
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Choose Shoes Specifically for Your Activity and Needs
Is there truly a difference between running shoes and plain old sneakers? The answer is yes!
Different sports make different demands of the feet and ankles. Running, for example, causes steady, repetitive impacts to the foot, while tennis features more sudden bursts and side-to-side movements.
Sport-specific shoes are designed to better accommodate these specialized demands, providing more cushioning and/or control where needed. Wearing the right shoe for the job can provide greater support and a lower risk of injuries such as ankle sprains and Achilles tendinitis.
Of course, choosing shoes for the right sport is only part of the process. Your shoes still must fit well, and different models within the same sport often accommodate different types of foot shapes and gaits differently. A trained associate at a shoe or sporting goods store can often help you find the right footwear for your needs.
Replace Your Shoes When Necessary
Keep track of your shoes and replace them when they begin to wear out. If they are literally falling apart, then a change is long overdue. They likely lost their ability to properly support your feet a long time ago.
How do you know when it’s time for new shoes, then? There are a few ways.
If you’re a runner, keep track of your mileage. Most shoes tend to wear out after about 300-500 miles, depending on how hard you’re hitting the trails.
Check your treads as well. If they’re worn down, that is also a good sign that your shoes need replacement. Pay especially close attention to whether one side or end of your treads has worn out much faster than the other. That is often sign of a gait abnormality that we should take a look at.
And ultimately, if you notice your feet or heels starting to hurt after activity when they didn’t used to, check your shoes for wear first. That is often a sign that their support has gone kaput.
Warm Up Before Starting
Many sports injuries occur due to overuse. This essentially means the body is pushed beyond the limits it is currently conditioned to endure.
So, if you start going full blast from a dead start, for example, your body may not be ready for that, and your risk of injury is higher.
A few minutes of warming up helps your body adjust to higher levels of activity and is always recommended no matter what you plan on doing.
A good warm-up should focus on dynamic stretching, actively moving the body instead of holding stretches while standing still (i.e. static stretching). Examples of good dynamic warm-ups can include light jogging, lunges, and knee raises. Make sure you give some attention to every part of your body that will be stressed in the coming exercise.
Once your workout is complete, focus on static stretching as a cooldown, to help acclimate your body back to a state of rest.
Pace Your Progress
You might hurt yourself if you go all out all at once, but pushing yourself too much over the long run is also a valid concern.
The body needs time to get faster and stronger. We accomplish this by literally breaking ourselves down on a cellular level as we exercise, then letting our bodies rebuild while we rest. Those are the fundamentals of a fitness plan!
If you push too hard, however, or don’t provide the body enough time for rest, you may end up breaking down faster than you can recover. Eventually, something will break down. Stress fractures – hairline cracks in the bones – can occur this way, as can other injuries.
Wherever you are on your fitness journey – from just starting out to a seasoned veteran – it always pays to keep your abilities in check. Never increase the intensity of your activity by more than 15 percent per week, as measured in time, distance, or weight.
And if that increase still feels like too much for you at the time – and we cannot stress this enough – do not be afraid to dial it back to something that feels challenging yet more reasonable.
If you are moving, you are doing your body good. It will always be better to reach your goals a little more slowly than expected than to force yourself too much (and have to sit out and recover from an injury as a result).
Treat Foot and Ankle Troubles Early
We get it. You don’t want pain or other problems getting in the way of the great feelings that can come with being active. But trying to ignore your symptoms only risks further injury and more chronic problems down the road.
We can get to the root of the problem and address it in a way that can get you back into action as quickly and as safely as possible (and have the advanced technologies that can accelerate your healing!). And if things need time to heal, we can help you come up with alternate plans in the meantime to keep you moving without impacting your injury.
Associates in Podiatry is here to help! Call either of our offices to schedule an appointment, and please feel free to take advantage of the telemedicine options we provide as well.