“Winter sports” in the Bay Area has a broader definition than it does in other climates.
While we don’t have many big skiing and snowboarding options next door, there are still plenty of good resorts (such as Sugar Bowl and Dodge Ridge) within a day trip or weekend vacation’s distance. And if doing stuff on snow isn’t really your thing, the temperatures still tend to be favorable enough to get out and move briskly with other pursuits!
Whatever your choice of wintertime sport, we want you to stay mobile and pain-free! A sports injury to the foot or ankle can ruin the best-laid plans for winter fun, so taking some simple steps to reduce your chances of trouble will always be worth it.
We will first focus on some tips for skiing and snowboarding before heading into some more generalized tips. But please don’t hesitate to reach out to us anytime you have questions about what would be best for your feet, or if you’ve experienced a sports injury that needs treatment.
Take Time to Learn Technique
The idea of strapping one or two planks to your feet and diving down a hill can seem rather basic, but there are right ways and wrong ways to make it down. Not following proper technique – especially when it comes to balance and bailing – can increase your risk of some very painful problems.
One unfortunate condition, more common for skiers than snowboarders, is subungual hematoma. You might also hear this referred to as “toe bang.”
Subungual hematoma occurs when trauma to a toenail causes bleeding beneath it. This builds up pressure and is often very painful, requiring release of the blood as soon as possible. Luckily, most ski resorts have professionals on hand to treat this (you should never try to do so yourself!).
Skiers are most likely at risk for subungual hematoma when they shift too far back on their skis in an attempt to retain balance. This forces their toes up against the tops of their hard boots, causing trauma. Snowboarders, with softer boots, are more likely to avoid this condition – but it’s not unheard of for them as well.
Learning the techniques for how to handle yourself on slopes and when it’s best to bail can not only save your toenails from sports injuries, but the rest of your feet and ankles, too. Take lessons, practice, and remain mindful of your form.
Check Your Gear
As we noted above, there are firm differences between ski boots and snowboarding boots. Beyond that, however, whatever boots you use should fit properly!
Boots that don’t fit well can cause a host of problems, from shifting too much strain to certain areas of your feet, to poor ankle support, to friction that can easily cause blisters.
If you own your boots, make sure they still fit comfortably, are in good working order, and not too worn down before using them. If you’ve owned them for several years, even with limited use, it may be time for a new pair.
If you are renting your boots from a resort, take some time to walk around in them before you commit. You don’t want to find out they’re ill-equipped for your feet at the top of a slope!
Handle Cold Feet Smartly
Nobody wants cold feet, and chilly temperatures may also contribute to muscle strain and cramping.
Wearing warm layers – including wool socks that wick moisture away from your feet – is a good idea. Just make sure your footwear still accommodates whatever you’re using!
Some folks also resort to heat packs. They are not a bad idea when used wisely, but just cramming them up against your toes isn’t really the most efficient (or even safe) way to benefit from them.
Get the most out of heating elements by concentrating on warming blood flow instead of a particular area in itself. To help warm your feet, try placing a heating pack on the inside of your ankle or behind your knee instead. These areas will have a more direct impact on warming your circulation.
All-Around, Everyday Sports Injury Prevention Tips
Whether you’re on the slopes, hitting the trails, or playing pick-up games of basketball this season, here’s a rundown of general tips that apply to everyone:
- Take time to warm up and stretch dynamically. This means a few minutes of easy, focused motion, such as light jogging, walking lunges, knee raises, etc. Save the more static stretching for cooldowns after activity.
- Pace yourself. You might want to try wringing as much time and enjoyment out of a warmer day or a weekend at a resort as you can, but overloading your body is one of the easiest paths to a sports injury. Know your limits, and take time to rest when you’re feeling fatigued. (And if you have kids, make sure they don’t overdo it, either.)
- Cross-train. Your winter shouldn’t be all about snowboarding, running, or whatever particular pursuit you enjoy most. Dedicating yourself to other forms of exercise and activity beyond your primary spore will help you more holistically train your body, both reducing your risk of injury and improving your fitness overall.
Never Ignore a Sports Injury!
Anytime you are experiencing persistent foot or ankle pain – whether from a sprain, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, or an injury you can’t even properly identify yet – the worst thing you can do for yourself is try to “push through it.” Continuing to place strain on part of you that’s already hurting greatly increases your chances of the problem becoming worse.
When a sports injury strikes, give us a call at (510) 647-3744. We’ll get to the root of the problem and help you get back to action as quickly and as safely as possible. Not only that, but we can recommend preventative techniques that meet your specific needs and greatly reduce your chances of such problems happening again.