Health

Take care of your skating feet (part 2)


Image

Both embarrassing and painful foot problems are often a part of everyday life for synchro skaters. (Credits: Ru-Pho - 2020)

Heel diseases can be very annoying for athletes who have to wear hard boots for many hours per week, and often, training gets very difficult due to severe pain.

Skates are not always comfortable as flip-flops, especially after many hours of training, when they are new or if we wear the wrong size. 

There are 3 main types of ankle problems, explains Martina Ricci, doctor, synchro skater for 18 years, and editor for Jura Synchro.

After having detailed what pump bump and Achilles tenosynovitis in the first part are, let's talk today about the two other ones:

ACHILLES TENDINITIS
What is that?

Overuse (skating too many hours per week or per day, too many jumps, working too long on the same exercise) commonly leads to inflammation of the Achilles tendon. The tendon can be tender at the touch and painful when moving our ankle; sometimes, it is also associated with a pump bump.

What to do?

- Reduce training hours per day or per week, reduce the number of jumps/painful steps per day.

- Check the foot alignment in the boot with your doctor to correct it if necessary.

- Do daily appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises of your calf (gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) during off-ice sessions and by yourself at home, too.

- Use gel heel cushions/insoles in your shoes when off-ice to improve shock absorption and allow your tendon to rest. Avoid wearing rigid back shoes, avoid running on hard surfaces and uphill during off-ice training.

- Ice on the painful area is always helpful.

- Anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy can be indicated in severe cases, ask your doctor.

LACE BITE
What is that?

It is a tenosynovitis of the anterior tibialis toe extensor tendons. More concretely, it's a pain, redness and even a scar that can appear on the anterior area of our ankle, right where the boot tongue and laces push when bending the ankles. Is it caused by pressure on these tendons with ankle dorsiflexion and knee flexion, so basically in most skaters' steps.

It is worsened by improper lacing technique (too tight upper part of the boot) and stiff boot tongue. Sometimes it happens when the athlete suddenly reaches a higher skating level (ex. moves to a higher category or stronger team, increases training sessions, tries more difficult steps or hardly works on skating skills, restarts straining after a long period of rest) because he is requested to bend his ankles much more than what he was used to. 

What to do?

- Change/add the tongue padding: it can be with either dense foam with air cells, a gel center or sheepskin. Wearing a gel pad around your ankle could be really helpful.

- Change your lacing technique to prevent excessive pressure during the maximum ankle and knee flexion.

- Get your feet some rest, and always remember to increase your training schedule gradually.

Have you ever noticed a little hard ball on the back of your feet?
All about this very common skaters' problem!
Finally, remember that skates usually win the race of what breaks down first between the skater’s ankle and the tick leather boots!

References:

Bradley MA. Prevention and treatment of foot and ankle injuries in figure skaters. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2006 Sep;5(5):258-61. doi: 10.1097/01.csmr.0000306425.08790.25. PMID: 16934208.

Campanelli V, Piscitelli F, Verardi L, Maillard P, Sbarbati A. Lower Extremity Overuse Conditions Affecting Figure Skaters During Daily Training. Orthop J Sports Med. 2015 Jul 28;3(7):2325967115596517. doi: 10.1177/2325967115596517. PMID: 26674524; PMCID: PMC4622334.

Tlougan BE, Mancini AJ, Mandell JA, Cohen DE, Sanchez MR. Skin conditions in figure skaters, ice-hockey players and speed skaters: part I - mechanical dermatoses. Sports Med. 2011 Sep 1;41(9):709-19. doi: 10.2165/11590540-000000000-00000. PMID: 21846161.