Playing The Field: A Sportsperson’s Guide To Footcare

 

Playing sport has a great effect on our health, but not always on the state of our feet! If you play sports regularly, you are familiar with the problems your feet go through. You are also aware that it is important to protect your soles from the minefield of sports-related injuries that they can sustain, from athlete’s foot to verrucas. It is important to wear the correct shoes so that your play is helped, not hindered.

When we run, our body weight is multiplied by up to three times, and our feet take the most strain of this extra weight with every stride and jump (that’s about an average of 1,000 strides per mile, per foot[i]). So if you’re running around a football pitch or tennis court for hours on end, or playing a full round of golf, your feet are going to need some extra and regular care at the end of the day. Many people who play field sports end up with blisters, corns, calluses, athlete’s foot and strong foot odour. But don’t worry, there are ways to protect your feet and enjoy your sport to the fullest.

Top tips for sporty feet

  • Get the right footwear for the sport you’re playing and the surface you’re playing on. If your feet are painful and sore at the end of the day’s play, it means you’re wearing the wrong shoes. When buying shoes, make sure you can wiggle your toes a little after wearing them. Since your feet are at their biggest in the afternoon and evening, these are the best times to buy shoes.
  • If you’re playing football, avoid choosing tight-fitting shoes for better ball control – tight shoes can slow down blood circulation and constrict the feet, leading to corns, calluses and ingrown toenails.
  • Remember that running shoes aren’t suitable footwear for racket sports – specially-designed shoes for each sport offer more stability for side-to-side movement. They are also weightier and stiffer, so that the toes and arches are supported better.
  • Wash your feet every day and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes. This will keep fungal infections at bay, as well as conditions like athlete’s foot.
  • If you need insoles, invest in some good quality ones. They can help relieve pain and provide extra cushioning where needed. Replace them every six months.
  • Treat blisters, corns and calluses as soon as they appear.
  • Ensure that you let your footwear dry out fully to avoid lingering foot odour.

In the changing room

It’s not just the physical stresses and strains of sport that can damage your feet - changing room hygiene also plays a part. The floors and damp, sweaty shoes are the ideal places for you to contract fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and verrucas. In fact, athlete’s foot is such a common problem among sportspersons, it is estimated that at any one time, around 15 to 25 per cent of the world’s population has it[ii]. Symptoms of athlete’s foot include dry, flaky skin on your soles, an unpleasant foot odour, and small itchy bubbles or blisters on your feet.

It’s important to treat athlete’s foot soon as it can spread if you scratch it, and then end up touching another part of your body. It can also spread via contaminated sheets or clothing. Fortunately, most cases of athlete’s foot are mild and can be treated at home within about a week of the problem appearing. You can treat it with an antifungal product such as an Athlete’s Foot Cream. You can help to prevent further bouts of the infection by applying Athlete’s Foot Powder after you wash and dry your feet.

It’s not always possible to prevent athlete’s foot, but you can protect yourself better if you:

  • Don’t wear tight-fitting trainers, which make feet warm and moist as this creates ideal conditions for sweating and fungal infections.
  • Don’t share other people’s towels, shoes or clothing.
  • Don’t walk barefoot around communal showers, changing rooms or swimming pools.
  • Wash your feet and dry them thoroughly, paying particular attention between your toes.
  • Wash your socks and towels in the hottest water possible if you suspect you have athlete’s foot.
  • Start using antiperspirant for your feet, such as Scholls Fresh Step Foot Spray.

 

[i] http://www.scpod.org/easysiteweb/getresource.axd?assetid=36321&type=0&servicetype=1&filename=/Sporty_feet.pdf

[ii] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2907807/