Tips for Avoiding Sports Injuries? Gotta Be the Shoes
When you want to do something well, you want the proper tool for the job. This should run doubly true if what you want to do is physical and you’re throwing your body into it.
Sports injuries to the foot and ankle are relatively common occurrences, simply based on the circumstances—when you are moving, bending, and pivoting with force, it always increases the chances of injury. In fact, when you’re running, training, or playing any sport that involves these factors, you can never completely reduce the risk of injuries such as ankle sprains or Achilles tendinitis to zero.
(The only way to do that is by not moving at all, and that’s way worse for you in the long run!)
However, the choices you make surrounding activity can have a significant influence on your injury risks—both reducing and increasing. One important element in these choices is which shoes you wear while you’re out there pouring on the energy.
Are you using the right tools for the job?
Not All Shoes are the Same
Just having something on your feet is not enough when you’re engaging in physical activity.
Having a covering for protection from the ground is only one out of many elements to consider when putting on a pair of athletic shoes. You must also consider how your feet and ankles may receive the most stress during an activity and whether the shoes provide adequate cushioning and support in those areas.
If you have ever wondered whether there really is a difference between “running shoes” and “basketball shoes”, the answer is a definite yes! Footwear manufacturers (at least the good ones) design these types of shoes differently to accommodate the more common needs of each sport. For example, a running shoe may have a higher focus on shock absorption for long, repetitive stretches, while a basketball shoe may have a higher focus on ankle support for pivots and turns on the court.
And even within the same sport or activity, different models of shoes can be available for different needs and positions. In football, there are cleats that are more speed-focused—such as for running backs and wide receivers—and cleats that focus more on durability and support—for offensive or defensive linemen.
In general, consider where the following elements apply to the sport you are looking for:
- Shock absorption – Does the activity involve consistent, forceful impacts to the feet, especially on hard surfaces? If so, you want extra cushioning to absorb the forces of those impacts.
- Ankle support – Does the activity involve lots of side-to-side movement, such as basketball, tennis, or skating? Ankle support should be a priority. This often comes in the form of a higher top, but make sure they are not so high as to dig into and irritate your Achilles tendon.
- Arch support – Proper arch support is helpful in increasing comfort and preventing painful heel injuries such as plantar fasciitis. Your gait (the way your foot moves when you walk or run) may be a big determining factor in what type of support you need.
- Traction – While traction is important to keep from slipping and overextending in sports that require quick cuts and movements, too much can also be potentially harmful. Having too much “grip” in your shoes or cleats, may cause your foot to plant while the rest of your body moves, leading to injuries of the ankle or knee.
This might feel like a lot to keep in mind while out looking for shoes, but you don’t have to do this alone. Associates at sporting goods stores are very often trained in identifying the foot and ankle needs of their patrons, and providing the right kinds of recommendations. Many places even provide gait testing right there on the main floor.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help looking for the right shoes. Bring it up with us and we can provide you a few pointers, too.
Ultimately, comfort is one factor you should never compromise on. It doesn’t matter whether the shoe should provide everything you need—if it doesn’t feel comfortable on your feet, it’s not the match for you!
When Do I Need New Footwear?
Nothing lasts forever. All that wear your shoes are reducing on your feet tends to break down the shoes themselves. Eventually, you will need to replace them.
Every type of shoe will degrade differently depending on its type and how it is being used. It pays to keep an eye on the soles to see how much they have worn down, as well as how the support feels. You should never reach the point where your shoes are falling apart before replacing them. They have long since lost their ability to provide the support you need by then.
Also, if you have a pair of athletic shoes you have not worn in more than a year, the supporting elements may have begun to weaken, even if they are new or mostly new. You should have those shoes professionally evaluated and consider a new pair (and check your shoe size then, too!).
What if You Need Extra Support?
Many shoes can provide significant comfort and risk reduction, but they are not the be all, end all of proper sporting.
Warm-ups, strengthening exercises, technique, and other important factors also play roles and should be considered. For some people, additional support and correction may be needed in the form of custom orthotic inserts in their shoes.
If you have any questions about sports injury prevention for your feet and ankles, we will be happy to help you. And if you have an injury in need of thorough, effective treatment to get you back into action safely, we can aid you there, too!
Give our Medford office a call at (609) 714-0052 to schedule an appointment. We are also happy to take appointment requests and questions via our online contact form, if you’d like.