Skiing and snowboarding is without a doubt a popular recreational sport amongst Australians. Whether you are a novice or experienced, the cold effects us all equally and may often affect the alignment and movement of your feet which can highly influence your skill on the slopes. Below are pointers for preparing for the ski season:
- Use a fresh clean pair of socks every day
Using dry, clean socks daily will ensure you keep your skin with minimal maceration (build-up of moisture particularly in-between the toes). This will reduce the risk of blisters and skin infections such as tinea. If you have the tendency to get sweaty feet, the apply powder on your feet prior to wearing the socks.
- Try and use thicker cotton socks.
The use of a thick sock will help provide cushion at potential hot spots, which can result in a blister. The other benefit of using thick socks is to absorb more sweat produced from your feet. I recommend Merino wool socks as they wick away moisture from the feet. The benefit of wool is keeping you warmer but your ski boots will also do this adequately.
If you suffer from cold feet, have peripheral arterial disease, diabetes or Raynauds, and you have never spent time in the snow, then you should consult your doctor or podiatrist for personal advise and suitability before heading out to avoid potential problems that may arise.
- Positioning the foot correctly
Unlike your everyday walking or running, where your feet are freely moving, inside a ski shoe or boot, your foot is placed in a fixed position. Since the principles and mechanism of action of your feet changes entirely so does the management of potential problems with alignment and function. In skiing or snowboarding, your points of pressure and pivots are located at the heel or toes. This is especially noticeable when attempting to turn.
If your feet are not placed correctly and the plantar foot pressure is not distributed evenly, it reduces the proprioceptive feedback and reducing your skill in maneuvering.
A podiatrist will look at your foot alignment and natural motions, to discuss if there are anomalies that can hinder your skiing skills.
- Minimise potential muscle injury
During our everyday motions, our muscles go through a range of different lengths, creating periods of rest and effort, contraction and stretch. It is these motions that enable movement. When you are fixed in a boot however, your foot and leg muscles are quite restricted and suddenly find themselves in a restricted environment. This can create consistent strain on particular muscles. If you have had a past muscle injury or have a tendency to develop tight muscles in the feet or legs, it is important you stretch pre-skiing and end of every day. Otherwise you can place yourself at risk of Achilles pain, plantar fasciitis and cramping.
- Correctly fitted boot
As mentioned earlier, the foot is fixed in the boot and every fine motor movement you do initiate has to have a rapid transition through the foot into to the boot and ultimately to the ski or board. If the boot is not fitted as accurately as possible to your foot, then a gap between the foot and boot results. This will reduce the contact time between your foot and the boot reducing reaction time. This will ultimately lead to an increased effort required to achieve motions and may reduce the ability to perform more intricate turns and motions.
This is where orthotics may help. When fitted to ski boots, they create a medium between the boot and your foot increasing contact and generating faster and more efficient response into the boot. You wouldn’t wear an ill-fitting shoe everyday so why would an ill-fitting boot be any different?
- Do not over-estimate your skill.
Irrespective of your experience level, the threat of injury looms over us all. Broken legs, knee trauma, neck injury and head trauma are common injuries. Do not go over speeds that you are unable to maintain control at. You will place not only yourself at risk but potentially pose a risk to other skiers. Reduce the risk of injury by using a helmet and wrist guards but more importantly control your speed at all times.
- Be prepared
Take blister pads, or bandaids with you in the event you should develop sore areas on your feet. If the skin is open, then apply an antiseptic (Eg, Betadine) to the area.
The points listed above are not an exhaustive list that should be considered before heading out onto the slopes, but can serve as a guide to ensure you and your loved ones make the most of your experiences at the snow. Like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube to stay up to date on future blog content, promotions and tip and tricks.
Dr Vanessa Hadchiti (Podiatrist)