The Foot Fix
What you need to know about your foot and ankle injuries and how to heal them
You train hard, eat healthy and everything is coming together. But then there is pain in your foot or your ankle. Maybe if you ignore it, it will go away, but instead the pain gets worse and no amount of boot punches or adjustments make it feel better.
Unfortunately, ankle and foot related problems associated with figure skating are all too familiar, especially for those who spend many hours training. Corns and calluses, stress fractures, tendonitis of the ankle and foot, as well as cysts and bursitis are the most common complaints. Some also suffer from plantar fasciitis, a painful heel condition, as well.
OVER USE: Although skaters may be able to pin point their injury to a specific one-time event, many suffer from foot or ankle injuries because of over use and incorrect technique. According to an excerpt from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, “impact at landing generates deceleration forces measuring up to 100 Gs in adolescent skaters. This phenomenal force is transmitted throughout the lower extremity contacting the ice and axial skeleton and is the main contributor to the host of injuries sustained in figure skating.” Skating multiple hours each week practicing the same jump, spin and footwork over and over, your foot and ankle may not be able to handle the constant stress and over time may end up injured.
POOR FOOT MECHANICS: If you over pronate (flattened or dropped arches), the tendons of your foot and ankle may become over stretched and inflamed, causing pain. If you have a high inflexible arch there may be added stress to the bones of the foot and ankle due to the lack of shock absorption in your foot. Those with high arches are at greater risk of stress fractures of the foot. Painful corns and calluses can also occur if your foot sits twisted inside the boots and the bones are pressed up against the inside of the boot.
BOOTS THAT ARE TOO STIFF OR BROKEN DOWN: Boots that are too stiff limit your ability to bend your ankle, resulting in strained muscles and tendons. In addition, with the 100Gs created upon impact with the ice when landing a jump, a boot that is too stiff and doesn’t give way to the skater is a prime candidate for causing a stress fracture. Alternately, boots that are broken down no longer provide the amount of ankle support required consequently making your muscles work too hard to balance you on your blade. Over time, the muscles and tendons can become painful and irritated, even swollen.
INCORRECT BOOT SIZE: Skates that are too big, too small or just don’t fit your foot can contribute to foot problems. The red bump or knot on the back of your heel is a result of your heel slipping inside a boot that is too wide, too big or not laced properly.
POOR LACING HABITS: Tying your skates too tight, especially at the top of the ankle can be contributing to ankle tendonitis. The tightness from the laces severely restricts the motion needed to bend your ankles properly.
INCORRECT BLADE PLACEMENT AND BLADE SHARPENING: An imbalanced boot for the blade, too deep of sharpening or too irregularly sharpened skates can all contribute to foot injuries, as you’re unconsciously having to fight the blade, either because you can’t stand up straight on it or are having problems gliding on the ice. Either way, your muscles and ligaments will be stressed more than normal.
DON’T IGNORE IT THE PAIN: An injury caught early can reduce the chances of it worsening, so tell your parents and your coach if you are ever in pain. Rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) can help treat foot and ankle injuries. If the condition doesn’t get better within a reasonable time or if the injury warrants it, seek medical attention.
DISCUSS YOUR TRAINING SCHEDULE WITH YOUR COACH OR YOUR PARENTS: Is your body telling you that you are training too hard? Are you working on the same jump over and over again and perhaps this is causing the issue? Having someone else review your training schedule and share their perspective can help prevent injuries before they even start.
GET YOUR BOOTS INSPECTED: A qualified boot fitter can determine if your boots are broken down or if the boots are providing too much support thereby causing you pain and injury. They will also check the blade placement to ensure it is mounted properly. Talk to your skate sharpener too, especially if you suspect your blades have been sharpened too deeply. A lighter sharpening may better suit you.
CONSIDER FOOT ORTHOTICS: Although foot orthotics are beneficial in preventing injury, they can also serve as an invaluable rehabilitation tool both in skates and for running/street shoes. For conditions like plantar fasciitis, tendonitis and stress fractures, orthotics will limit the aggravating motion and re-align the foot to promote healing. As well, because orthotics hold the foot straighter and more upright in boots, you may see the corns and calluses start to heal.
RE: EVALUATE HOW YOU LACE YOUR SKATES: Picture 1 shows an incorrect way skates are laced. Picture 2 shows the correct way. You should never “rope” yourself into the top of the skates, but instead leave ample room at the top to allow your ankle to bend. You should be able to bend your knees over your toes and only at that point feel strong resistance from the tongue of the boot.