Tips for Preventing Foot and Ankle Injuries
Foot and ankle injuries are common in sports, especially running, tennis and soccer. But sports enthusiasts can decrease the risk of injury by taking some precautions.
Warm up prior to any sports activity
Lightly stretch or better yet, do a slow jog for two to three minutes to warm up the muscles. Don't force the stretch with a "bouncing motion."
Condition your muscles for the sport
The amount of time spent on the activity should be increased gradually over a period of weeks to build both muscle strength and mobility. Cross training by participating in different activities can help build the muscles.
Choose athletic shoes specifically for your foot type
People whose feet pronate or who have low arches should choose shoes that provide support in both the front of the shoe and under the arch. The heel and heel counter (back of the shoe) should be very stable. Those with a stiffer foot or high arches should choose shoes with more cushion and a softer platform. Use sport-specific shoes. Cross training shoes are an overall good choice; however, it is best to use shoes designed for the sport.
Replace athletic shoes when the tread wears out or the heels wear down
People who run regularly should replace shoes every six months, more frequently if an avid runner.
Avoid running or stepping on uneven surfaces
Try to be careful on rocky terrain or hills with loose gravel. Holes, tree stumps and roots are problems if you are trail running. If you have problems with the lower legs, a dirt road is softer than asphalt, which is softer than concrete. Try to pick a good surface if possible. However, if you're racing, be sure to train on the surface you'll eventually run on.
Be careful running too many hills
Running uphill is a great workout, but make sure you gradually build this up to avoid injuries. Be careful when running downhill too fast, which can often lead to more injuries than running uphills!
Prevent recurrent injuries
Athletes who have experienced ankle injuries previously may benefit from using a brace or tape to prevent recurrent ankle injuries.
Listen to your body
If you experience foot and ankle pain during a sport, stop the activity or modify the activity until the pain subsides. Also, if you have been injured, you should go through a period of rehabilitation and training before returning to the sport to prevent recurrent injuries.