They can immediately sideline even the best players out there, bringing the fun of participation and the health benefits of exercise to a screeching halt.
Even worse: When a sports injury keeps you out of the game long-term, your chances of gaining weight, becoming less fit in general, and possibly developing chronic foot conditions (like arthritis) can drastically increase.
The bad news is that it’s not always possible to avoid injury when playing sports—especially those that require a lot of physical contact between players. So, if your activity of choice is football or basketball, then your chances of getting hurt are naturally quite high.
The good news is that you can help protect your feet and ankles by properly preparing them before AND after a game or practice session. All you have to do is warm up your muscles and then stretch. (Wearing appropriate footwear is also an important aspect of protecting your feet and ankles. However, that is a topic for a different blog.)
After a foot or ankle injury, a comprehensive stretching routine will also help you return to your daily activities and restore the strength and flexibility you had before getting injured. Not to mention that stretching can help avoid the injury from reoccurring during your healing process or after you have fully recovered.
This, of course, does not mean that stretching alone is enough to treat and prevent sports injuries. In fact, whenever you experience an injury, you should immediately come visit our Connecticut office. We will perform a thorough evaluation of your feet and ankles in order to correctly diagnose your condition and provide the most beneficial treatment available to get you back on your feet as quickly and as safely as possible.
Now, let’s get to the point: Here is what you need know about stretching your feet and ankles.
Before any kind of physical activity, including stretching, the body needs to be warmed up with some light exercise. Walking, running in place, or doing jumping jacks for a few minutes will warm up your muscles.
Once your muscles are warm, they're ready for some stretches. But there are some things you should keep in mind:
- Don't bounce when stretching. Bouncing in a stretch can cause damage.
- Take it slow. There's no prize for finishing a stretching routine first. Go slowly to get all the benefit.
- Stay fit year-round. It's a good idea for you to keep in shape even during the off-season so that you are ready for competition when it starts up again.
- Find the appropriate gear for you to wear. Protective equipment that fits properly and is well-maintained and designed specifically for the sport being played should help reduce injury.
- Respect an injury. If you already had a sprain or other injury, check with the pediatrician or sports trainer before you get back into action.
- With all that being said (and done), you can finally get to the main focus.
Get to Stretching
1.) Ankle Pump Up. This exercise helps increase ankle dorsiflexion (upward movement of the foot) and strengthens the muscles in the front of your lower leg (shin). You can do this exercise seated or by standing and holding onto a wall or counter.
To begin, point your toes upward like you are trying to touch your toes to the front of your shin. Hold this position for 10 seconds, maintaining constant tension, and release. Start with three sets of 10 exercises and work your way up to three sets of 30 exercises.
2.) Ankle Pump Down. This exercise helps increase ankle plantarflexion (downward movement of the foot) and strengthens the muscles in the back of your lower leg (calf). You can do this exercise seated or by standing and holding onto a wall or counter.
For this exercise, point your foot and toes downward as far as you can go. You should feel your calf muscles flexing at the back of your leg. Hold this position for 10 seconds and release. Start with three sets of 10 exercises and work your way to doing three sets of 30 exercises.
3.) Bent Knee Wall Stretch. This exercise mainly stretches the soleus muscle on the inside of the calf. To begin, line yourself up squarely in front of a wall and press your hands against the wall for balance. Place one foot behind you and the other just in front.
Keeping your knees slightly bent and both heels solidly on the floor, press your hips forward until you feel a stretch along the back of your calf. Hold for 30 seconds, maintaining the tension, and release.
Start with three sets of 10 exercises for each leg, working your way up to three sets of 30 exercises.
4.) Straight Knee Wall Stretch. This exercise (sometimes referred to as the runner's stretch) helps to stretch the entire gastrocnemius-soleus muscle complex.
To begin, line yourself up squarely in front of a wall, then press your hands against the wall for balance. Place one foot behind you and the other just in front. Keeping both heels flat on the floor, press your hips forward until you feel a solid stretch along the entire calf. Hold for 30 seconds and release.
Start with three sets of 10 exercises for each leg and work your way up to three sets of 30 exercises.
5.) Toe Pick Ups. This exercise helps to strengthen your toes and improve their flexibility. The movement of the toes is directed by a complex set of muscles that are easily impaired with a foot or ankle injury.
To begin, place a pile of 20 small objects on the floor (like jacks, hard candies, or tiny stones) and use your toes to pick them up and move them to another pile. Do three sets of this exercise three times per day.
6.) Toe Raises. This exercise helps to strengthen your toes and calf muscles. Holding a wall or counter for balance and rise up onto your tiptoes as far as you can go without pain. Hold the position for 10 seconds, maintaining the tension, and release.
Start with three sets of 10 exercises and work your way up to three sets of 30 exercises. As you get stronger, you can begin to do single leg toe raises, which places additional weight on each leg.
7.)Plantar Fascia Massage. This exercise directly massages the plantar fascia (the thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes). This is an ideal treatment for plantar fasciitis, a common chronic condition caused by inflammation of the fibrous tissue.
To begin, sit comfortably in a chair and cross one leg over the opposite knee. With one hand, pull your toes back until the foot is fully dorsiflexed. There should be tension but no pain. With the other hand, massage the bottom of your foot immediately in front of the heel. Do this for 10 minutes three times per day.
Contact Us Today!
We certainly hope that by preforming these stretches regularly, you will be able to steer clear from foot and ankle injuries while you play your sports of choice. However, if you have any questions or concern, you can contact us today! Here at Patel Podiatry Family Foot Care & Surgery, we can help you get back out on the field with strong and healthy feet and ankles.
Call us at (203) 876-7736 or simply fill out our handy request form online.