We’re enjoying some lovely warm sunshine at the moment, but most of our favourite sports and fitness activities are already moving indoors for the winter. This means months of exercise on a hard surface, including ice, and that can place strain on your feet and lower limbs.
Playing sport indoors brings its own set of sports-related injury risks, even when the sports hall, gym or studio is nice and warm, or on properly maintained and smooth-surfaced ice.
How our feet have evolved
Human feet evolved to “work best” on natural surfaces, such as grass, clay or sand. Today, we spend much of our lives standing, walking or running on much harder, man-made surfaces. For example, standing on concrete floors at work, and running on asphalt sidewalks or compacted park paths.
This leaves our feet and lower limbs at particular risk of specific injuries when we exercise indoors, which include:
- Sprained ankles due to awkward landing and sudden turns on indoor flooring.
- Muscle strain from different movement patterns and playing/exercising in smaller spaces.
- Achilles tendon inflammation and tears due to repeatedly running and jumping on hard surfaces.
- Hamstring injuries due to sudden running, jumping or lunging movements not normally associated with outdoor sports.
- Heel pain (Plantar fasciitis) due to excessive pressure on your heels and arches.
- Stress fractures when tendons are stressed and more pressure is transferred to your lower limb bones.
Helping your feet cope with the great indoors
As with all sports, one of the keys to reducing the risk of foot, ankle and lower limb injury is to wear shoes specifically designed for your sport or activity. Basketball boots, for example have more support around the ankle area than a standard running shoe. For high impact cardio classes, you might opt for a training shoe with a thicker sole to absorb more impact.
Dance and fitness classes
Dance classes can be hard on your feet too. That’s precisely why dedicated dance studios have sprung wooden floors, to reduce the impact on dancers’ feet and lower limbs, whether they are dancing ballet or hip hop. Dance also involves repetitive movements sustained over a period of time, so it’s important to vary the routines and avoid over-training,
(For more details on dance injuries, see this article from Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Over the winter months, many of us are less active generally than in the summer due to lack of daylight hours and temperatures outside. We may also enjoy different sports in different seasons, leaving behind the kayaking and swimming for curling, perhaps. So when we do go to exercise, we may be using different muscles than in previous months, and at different frequencies during the week.
As with any sport or physical activity, one of the best ways to prevent injury is to warm up properly. It doesn’t matter if you are skating figures or shooting arrows; it is equally important to gently stretch the muscles you will be using before exercising, to prepare your body for the game, match or exercise session.
It is equally important to “warm down” afterwards, again through gentle stretches and other movements. Your club coach will be able to advise you on suitable warm up and down exercises, or consult a personal trainer.
Clean dry socks for healthier feet
Finally, if you can, wash your feet after taking off your sports shoes, and put a clean pair of socks on. Your feet will have sweated and made your socks damp. Changing into a clean pair ensure your feet are dry in your ‘everyday’ footwear, rather than transferring the damp. Equally, don’t leave our sports shoes or boots in your bag once you get home. Allow them to air and dry naturally, and clean off any mud or grit. Not only will tis help keep your footwear fungal-free, but they will also last longer too!
When to consult Hunt Footcare
Knowing the difference between normal muscle aches and an injury can be difficult. If you have unusually sore feet, limbs and muscles after resuming indoor sports or fitness classes, or pain that increases when you are active, contact us for an appointment.
Our team can assess you and hep identify possible causes, and work with you on appropriate treatments and rehabilitation programs. We may also recommend the use of specific strapping, braces and custom orthotics for your sports footwear.
Need us to take a look at your feet?
At Hunt Footcare, we offer a wide range of footcare services using proven skills, techniques and technology to help all our patients.
Call us for an appointment at any of our three local podiatry clinics in London, Ingersoll and Stratford Ontario.