Foot Pain

“Foot Related Sports Injuries” by Jeffrey Jacobs, C. Ped

This is the time of year when doctors, physical therapists, and athletic trainers all roll up their sleeves and brace themselves for the onslaught of sports injuries. Foot and foot-related injuries are among the most common of all sports injuries. Since most foot-related problems are caused by “overuse”, it is easy to understand why people who participate in sports represent a large segment of the patient population.

Most athletes have learned to put up with their discomfort and often will tolerate the pain until it finally prevents them from participating in their sport. This is unfortunate because preventative measures involving proper foot care can avoid many of these injuries.

Our feet provide the very foundation for all human locomotion and consequently, if they are not functioning properly the vigor of most sports will eventually cause a foot, ankle, knee, or lower back problem. Human gait (walking, running) requires the feet to be flexible and rigid at the appropriate stages in order for the body to absorb shock, maintain balance, and propel itself forward, backward, or sideways.

Foot Problems Result in Body Pain

If there is a biomechanical deficiency in the way the foot performs its job it will likely result in compensation in the ankle, knee, or hip. This compensation, over time and hard use, may result in an injury to the joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons and cause pain. Improving or correcting foot function can cure or prevent many of these alignment problems.

It is important to wear footwear that is appropriate for the activity. Most sports have specific shoes designed to meet the performance requirement of the activity like soccer cleats, track shoes, or basketball shoes. These shoes are designed to enhance the athlete’s performance and hold up to the rigors of the sport.

For example, good soccer cleats are designed for soft surfaces and provide lateral control for quick cutting or turning movements while running shoes are designed for harder surfaces, will absorb more shock, but may lack the lateral control for quick turns. If you are unsure about what type of shoe is best for your sport you should ask the coach or seek out a knowledgeable salesperson in a reputable sport or shoe store.

Quality Shoes Over Price

While it is often not necessary to buy the most expensive shoes in the store, it is important not to skimp. Footwear should be selected that is comfortable, well-fitting, and well made. They should be sized to fit snugly but allow ample room in the forefoot. It is important to try on several pairs to ensure a proper fit. Like all shoes, they should be replaced when they are worn out. Wearing excessively worn shoes may lead to problems. But even the best shoes may be lacking in adequate foot support. The addition of custom inserts or orthotics can dramatically improve a shoe’s performance and go a long way to preventing injury.

Custom orthotics are made to the individual foot shape and are designed to provide enhanced biomechanics and alignment. They are commonly used to treat foot, shin and knee pain associated with sports that involve a lot of running. Orthotics can also help to provide shock absorbency, ankle stability and improve shoe fit. Orthotics for sports are generally full length, replacing the existing sock liner, and will be made of materials that provide good control while being flexible enough to function with the shoes.

It is recommended that athletes utilize the sports medicine professionals available to them to evaluate their biomechanics and treat any pain before it becomes severe. Most school sport programs will have an athletic trainer, physical therapist or attending physician who can provide an evaluation and make recommendations for treatment.

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