Most of the population suffers from foot problems at some point in their lives. But the demands athletes place on their bodies can be particularly hard on their feet. Consulting with a sports podiatrist can decrease pain, improve performance and prevent injury. Read on to learn more:
What Is a Podiatrist?
In general, a podiatrist is an ankle and foot doctor who performs common procedures like ingrown toenail removal or plantar wart laser treatment. Other common services include solutions for corns, callouses and bunions. But it’s a common misconception that podiatrists deal with feet alone; because the foot, ankle and lower leg work together, podiatrists — particularly those with a focus on movement and biomechanics, like most sports podiatrists — analyze their function in conjunction.
A sports podiatrist can observe the way an athlete’s foot strikes the ground, as well as the entire chain of motion as it travels from the ankle to the knee to the hip and torso. This is called biomechanical analysis. Biomechanical imbalances can be caused by a number of factors, including structural deformation (which can be countered with custom orthotics, surgery or other measures depending on its severity) or muscle weakness (normally treated with physical therapy).
While many sport and running shoe stores also provide assessment, it’s always better to seek help from a sports podiatrist. Why? Stores have a vested interest in simply telling customers that they need a better (read: more expensive) shoe. While it’s true that quality footwear is a must for anyone demanding the most of their feet, a doctor is more likely to tell patients what kind of foot and ankle exercises can improve function long-term.
Injury Treatment and Prevention
Misalignment or imbalance can put additional stress on muscles and joints, leading to injury. Although almost all athletes will experience mild irritation such as achilles tendonitis at some point (typically controlled by rest, ice, compression, elevation and ibuprofen or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), chronic pain is a sign that true treatment for biomechanical problems is needed. By actually discovering and correcting biomechanical issues, the risk of injury in the future is also reduced.
Have you experienced foot and lower leg pain as an athlete? What kind of treatment have you received?