Winter sports and Foot Health

Winter sports and Foot Health

Masterton Foot Clinic

There are many fun aspects to winter sports whether it is kicking around a ball on a frosty field or flying down the mountain on skis. Not only does it keep us fit but it is also the best remedy to beat the winter blues.

However, the cold winter weather can be harsh on your feet for both adults and children. In the cold, muscles take longer to warm up making you more prone to injury.


Common foot problems during winter:

Blisters– badly fitting shoes/boots can cause blisters on the toes, feet and heels.

Sprains and strains– winter sports place demands on our skeletal make up (knees, ankles and feet).

Chilblains are itchy blisters that can pop up in cold conditions, usually on the toes but also on fingers and even on the face. Keeping the areas warm and dry is the best way to prevent chilblains. Often if you are prone to developing chilblains the best source of treatment is to wear 100% wool socks/tights and wear shoes with rubber soles.

Diabetes affects circulation and is made worse by cold and tight-fitting footwear. You should consult your podiatrist before you hit the slopes.

Frostbite– In sub-freezing temperatures, wet feet are in danger of frostbite, a serious, painful condition that can result in loss of toes therefore protection is very important.


What can you do to minimise painful feet during the sports season?

Warm up before going outdoorsbefore commencing any physical activity, it’s important to stretch so your muscles are warmed up which helps to reduce the risk of injury. A routine that includes several jumping jacks, running or walking on the spot and stretching will get your body ready for activity. 

Cool down– after any rigorous activity, especially one that’s outdoors, spend time cooling down your body. Doing some stretching will help your tired muscles and allow you to recover faster from your activities.

Listen to what your body needsare your feet feeling tired and achy? Do your shoes feel too tight? Your body has ways of telling you when it’s tired and needs a break. Prevent foot-related injuries by paying attention to what your body needs and giving it a break whenever possible. Overexerting yourself can lead to injury. If that happens, you may end up spending the remaining winter season indoors.


Children- they suffer foot problems too!

Remember foot problems and pain is not just experienced by adults, but children as well. They too can suffer from a number of foot complaints which can make playing sports a miserable experience.

  • Skin conditions such as verruca’s/warts or tinea/athletes foot and chillblains
  • Growing pains – Severs or Osgood-Schlatters
  • Sports injuries- common in growing kids and teenagers
  • Toe deformity-bunions, hammertoes, overriding toes

 Severs Disease:

  • Calcaneal apophysitis or inflammation of growth plate in heel
  • Pain around back of heel with activity, running and jumping worse, pain with lateral squeeze of heel bone
  • Extremely common at start of sport season especially winter sport
  • Treatment: reduce activity, footwear, heel raise or orthotic, stretching, ice packs and/or strapping



  • Tibial apophysitis or inflammation of growth plate below knee
  • Pain with around knee with activity, kicking, palpation of tibial tuberosity or resisted extension
  • Treatment: reduce activity, footwear, orthotics, stretching and/or ice packs


Key points to remember:

  • Keep your feet as warm and dry as possible. Wearing 100% merino socks helps the foot breath but keeps them snugly and warm.
  • Allow foot wear (boots or shoes) to dry between use, if possible. Pop them by the fire- this will help prevent your feet from getting cold quickly as well as prevent the growth of fungi and bacteria.
  • Seek advice and treatment from your podiatrist
  • Soak your feet in Epsom salt and warm water every once in a while to relieve discomfort and prevent infections.
  • But most of all, have fun on the field or slope this winter!


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