3 Tips for Preventing or Minimizing Common Exercise-Related Foot and Ankle Injuries
Whether you are just starting an exercise program or are in great shape, your feet and ankles are vulnerable to injuries or problems without proper care. Taking these preventative measures and addressing minor problems can help you avoid derailing your exercise goals.
1. Engage in Good Toenail Care
Toenails are often overlooked as part of an overall injury-prevention strategy, but poorly groomed toenails can contribute to significant pain and problems. Make sure you are trimming your toenails regularly. When you allow your toenails to overgrow, they are more likely to snag on your shoes or socks during exercise and be pulled away from the nail bed. You should also trim your toenails in the appropriate way. Toenails should be trimmed straight across so they are square rather than rounded.
Do not trim your toenails so short that the outer corners are below the edge of your toe. As they grow, the edges are more likely to grow into the skin if the nail is too short. Use toenail clippers instead of ones for your fingernails, because their shape encourages the appropriate toenail shape. Once you have trimmed your toenails, use a file to slightly round the edges so they are not sharp. Unfortunately, some people have recurrent problems with ingrown toenails, usually on the great/big toe. It is best to have that portion of the toenail removed and the nail matrix destroyed to prevent future occurrences.
2. Pick the Right Shoe
When you engage in regular exercise, your shoes should keep up with your activity. Athletic shoes are often labeled for a specific sport, such as running or cross training, and you should take this labeling into consideration when making your selection. The shoe is designed to provide support related to the activity. If you do many different activities, you need to have different athletic shoes conducive to each type of activity you are participating in. The more active you are, the more often you will have a need to purchase new shoes because the old ones will wear down. Even when your shoes look perfectly fine on the outside, they may no longer support your feet and need to be replaced.
In addition to being the right type of shoe for the activity you're engaging in, your shoe needs to fit properly. Whenever possible, choose and buy your shoes at the end of a day. You may have been walking around or engaged in activity during the day, and your shoe size can be larger and/or wider after activity. Choosing shoes when your feet are at their largest will prevent your shoes from feeling uncomfortably tight at the end of the day and causing compression on your toes. The appropriate shoe can also depend on any foot or ankle problems you may experience. Even if you are not participating in basketball or another sport that is well known for ankle injuries, if you've had prior problems with your ankle, it is ideal to purchase athletic shoes with ankle support.
3. Address Ankle Sprains Promptly
Even minor ankle sprains can turn into serious problems if you do not address them quickly and give your body a chance to heal. Use the RICE technique. While you are resting your ankle, make sure to keep it elevated to help minimize swelling. Learning the appropriate technique to apply an elastic bandage will give you the right amount of compression while preventing decreases in circulation. You should check your elastic bandage periodically and adjust it as necessary. If your bandage is leaving deep grooves in your skin, it is too tight. Do intermittent icing of your ankle. Try to leave the ice on the area for a few minutes at a time even if the ice feels uncomfortable.
If you have arthritis in your ankle, you may need to use anti-inflammatory pain relievers to minimize aching of the joint while you apply ice. Keeping the swelling down is important to minimize pain, but it can also prevent an ankle sprain from becoming worse. Swelling can weaken the supporting structures in the ankle, leading to instability or rupture of ligaments. If you continue to experience significant pain and swelling after a few days of RICE, the problem may be more serious than a simple sprain.
Your feet and ankles often take the most impact during exercise, making them more vulnerable to injuries. Preventing minor problems and giving your feet and ankles a break if simple injuries occur can improve recovery time and prevent exacerbation of problems. For treatment of an injury in these areas or for more information, contact a representative from a facility like Elmhurst Podiatry Center Ltd.