With popular ski resorts across North America set to open in the coming days, many Houstonians are already planning trips to hit the slopes this holiday season and beyond. Whether you’re planing to ski or snowboard, it’s not uncommon for newbies and seasoned veterans to experience some sort of foot or ankle pain. These issues may be caused by the physical strain of the activity, improper boot sizing, lack of support, or even the bindings used.
The most types of skiing foot and ankle pain felt on the slopes are listed below.
Skier’s Toe / Toe Bang
Skier’s toe, also known as toe bang (subungual hematoma), is when a toenail turns black because of bleeding under the nail. It’s caused by ski boots that are either too loose or too tight, creating a condition where the foot slams back and forth, leading to repetitive trauma. The blackened toenail(s) can be very painful and prevent you from getting back out there on subsequent days. Fast treatment (draining the hematoma) may help you resume activity as early as the next day, so seek medical attention immediately. If you don’t have access to a podiatrist on vacation, call us for a same-day or next-day appointment upon your return.
To avoid the occurrence of Skier’s Toe/Toe Bang, get properly fitted for boots – don’t borrow someone else’s ill-fitting pair.
Ankle sprains are common among skiers and snowboarders. It typically occurs when the individual lands on the outside of the foot and twists the foot far inwards. This will cause the tissue on the outside of the foot to over stretch and tear. It can lead to swelling and pain. Normally, the tissue damaged in an ankle sprain can heal on its own. However, it needs proper medical attention to regain normal function. Therefore, you will need to see a podiatrist to ensure that the injury heals properly and in a timely manner.
With advancements in ski boot design, we’ve seen a decrease in the number of sprains and similar injuries over the years. To help prevent an ankle sprain, use snug-fitting ski boots with properly adjusted bindings.
Foot Bruises and Blisters
Though not as serious as some of the other conditions on this list, these annoying injuries can take their toll. Bruises can be caused by a poor boot fit that allows excess movement, or through tight bindings. Blisters are caused by heat, moisture and friction inside the boot during long days on the slopes. If you are constantly get blisters on your foot, it is recommended that you try one of the following measures:
- Double up on socks – use a thin liner sock on your skin, and a moisture-wicking wool sock over it.
- Use an anti-chafing product like Vaseline or Bodyglide to reduce friction
- Use an antiperspirant or powder to keep feet dry
- Tape your trouble areas in advance, using a basic athletic tape or Moleskin brand
These measures work best when your boots and equipment fit properly. In addition to wearing the right socks, you may want to carry an extra pair, and change them as needed to keep your feet warm and dry on the slopes.
Many skiers have Morton’s neuroma. It is a foot condition where there is excessive nerve inflammation under the ball of the foot, making it difficult to enjoy skiing. Morton’s neuroma is caused by a pinching of the nerve between the third and fourth metatarsals. The nerve can become pinched as a result of wearing narrow ski boots that compress the toes together and trap the nerve in the ball of the foot. If pain develops, you can quickly loosen your ski boots to reduce pressure on the nerve. If the pain continues, you will need to see a board certified foot specialist for treatment.
To avoid Morton’s neuroma, wear ski boots that have wide toe boxes to prevent compression. Also, stretch your toes regularly before skiing. Morton’s neuroma is more prevalent among women than men.
Ankle or foot fractures
The ankle or foot can be fractured when there is too much stress placed on a bone. This can occur as a result of landing incorrectly after a jump, falling or colliding with another skier. When you sustain a fracture in your foot or ankle, you will need to quickly treat it to prevent complications and heal the injury safely and rapidly. While not all fractures are avoidable, you can perform stretching and strength building exercises to better prepare your feet and ankles for the stress of snow sports. Above all, stay off the slopes if you have an injured ankle, because it is already weak and vulnerable.
Dr. Gabriel Maislos at Houston Foot and Ankle Care treats sports injuries like those sustained by skiers and snowboarders. Dr. Maislos a board certified podiatric surgeon, with deep experience in treating all types of foot and ankle problems. Whether you’ve suffered an injury on the slopes or just everyday foot pain, don’t put off a medical evaluation. To schedule an appointment, call (713) 541-3199.