When it comes to swimming, your feet probably aren’t your first concern. But should they be? Many people don’t realize healthy feet are just as important for swimming as they are for running and other non-aquatic activities. And foot injury and infection are more common than you might expect. But don’t grab your towels just yet — the following tips can help keep you kicking all summer long.
Slips and Spills
Any seasoned swimmer knows one of the most accident-prone parts of the pool is just outside of it. You don’t just risk minor scrapes and bruises with a fall — broken bones, concussions and even drowning are all potential pitfalls. There’s a reason many pools have handrails throughout; use them whenever possible. And keep the racing to the water – bare feet and wet surfaces do not make a safe pair. Your podiatrist can recommend waterproof pool socks to increase traction, but whether you opt for these or not, you should walk slowly and carefully if you’re anywhere near the water.
Aches, Pains and Cramps
Active swimmers and athletes are at increased risk for a number of foot pains and injuries. Cramps can come on suddenly and without warning, breaking your lap count and causing intense pain in the feet and legs. Typically, cramps come from overuse, dehydration or electrolyte deficiency. So regular swimmers should pay extra attention to diet and nutrition, making sure to drink plenty of fluids. To avoid aches and pains from overuse and injury, keep the following in mind:
- Stretching is essential – be sure to practice gentle stretching of the legs and feet both before and after a swim.
- Form matters – improper kicking can increase stress on the foot and ankle, leading to tendonitis. Keep your foot flexible and avoid rigidly pointing the toes. Utilize your hips when you kick and allow the knees to bend.
- Technique is key – especially for long-distance swimmers who use the flip-turn technique. If this technique is executed poorly, the heel can slam into the wall, causing pain, bruising and even ankle sprains.
Fungus and bacteria thrive in warm, wet environments, so it should come as no surprise pools are a perfect breeding ground for athlete’s foot, toenail fungus and a range of other infectious diseases. Keep a pair of pool socks, flip-flops or water shoes handy and slip them on anytime you’re out of the water to minimize exposure. Also be sure to wash feet thoroughly when you get home.
If you’re already experiencing any of these problems, you can try gentle massage or stretching, heat and ice, rest and wraps. But if the pain is keeping you off your feet and out of the pool or if it lasts for more than a day or two, the foot doctor should be your first step.
Triangle Foot and Ankle Specialist Dr. Jeremy Thomas is a top-rated podiatrist providing comprehensive, innovative care for swim-related foot and ankle problems, and more.
Call (919) 851-3435 or visit us online today for a same day appointment and let us help you jump back into the pool with confidence – not pain.