The Foot Fix

What you need to know about your foot and an­kle in­juries and how to heal them

Figure Skater Fitness - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - by Patti Larkin, C.O. (R), C. Ped.

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.

The Causes

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.

The So­lu­tions

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.

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