Avoiding Foot and Ankle Fails on the Ski Slopes

by | Dec 18, 2019

Whether you prefer skiing or snowboarding, we’re blessed to be not too far from some great slopes. You can spend a weekend out at Breckenridge or Monarch, or take a day attacking something a bit closer.

Whatever your plans may be, the last thing you want is some foot or ankle condition popping up to make you miserable. This can range from simple cold feet that nag you all day to a truly nasty sprain or fracture that can end your season early.

Nobody wants foot or ankle issues to put a damper on their time enjoying some of the best sports winter has to offer. The good news is that there are things you can do to help lower your risks of painful sports injuries and generally make yourself more comfortable.

Just remember that we can’t really help you mitigate a direct collision with a mountain, though. Be careful out there!

Here are some easy foot care tips when it comes to skiing and snowboarding.

Skiing Foot and Ankle

Keeping Your Feet Warm

Let’s start off with a relatively common nuisance: cold feet.

In most cases, cold feet is a nuisance at worst. However, when conditions are deeply chilled or additional factors come into play, frostbite can become a real concern.

For handling standard cold, your footwear is your best friend. Most ski and snowboard boots are designed for warmth, and socks will assist.

Look for a sock that is not only designed for warmth, but for wicking moisture away from the feet as well. Keeping moisture against the feet helps them get cold faster, and it just feels terrible. Wool is often a good material to look for, but certain synthetic materials can work as well. Ditch cotton socks; they’re not ideal at all.

When temperatures dip further, consider sock liners. They are thin and built to slip easily within boots for some added warmth. Do not slip on an extra pair of socks over the pair you’re currently wearing. Not only will this more likely lead to uncomfortable bunching up, but your foot is more likely to slip within your boots, creating blister-causing friction.

Warming devices (like those little chemical packets) can also be of good use, but you may not be getting as much benefit out of them as you could if you’re applying directly to the spot you feel is coldest. Think of your circulation instead, and try keeping them in places that will keep circulation in your feet more open and warm. This includes the inside of the ankle, behind your knee, or even against your lower back.

No matter what, if your toes or feet start to feel tingly and numb, take a time out and head to the lodge to warm up. You’re hitting a dangerous zone by keeping your feet exposed to the cold at this point.

Making Sure Boots Fit

Your boots are the interface between you and your skis or snowboard. They should not only help you control your equipment, but keep your feet and ankles from becoming too strained while doing so.

Boots that are too loose will allow the foot to slide around more than normal, which can lead to blisters and calluses. They will also likely provide too little support to the ankles, increasing the risks of injury in falls or taking turns too quickly.

Boots that are too tight, on the other hand, can keep your toes crammed together, increasing the likelihood of blisters (again), but also ingrown toenails or corns. Cramped boots can also interfere with circulation to your feet, making it easier for them to grow cold.

A boot that fits well will allow you some room for wiggling your toes, but also keep your heel steady. If you are renting, don’t be in a rush to find the first pair of boots that are “good enough.” They’re not bowling shoes; you’ll likely be spending all day doing some strenuous stuff in those things! Find the best fit and your day will be a lot better for it.

Handling Blood Beneath the Toenail

You might know this as “skier’s toe” or “toe bang,” but we know it in the podiatry office as “subungual hematoma.” This is when bleeding takes place beneath the toenail, causing it to turn black and really hurt.

This condition happens when the front of your foot smashes against the inside of your boot, causing bleeding that becomes trapped beneath the toenail. Boots that don’t fit well will increase your risk of this happening, but so can leaning back hard while heading down a slope—a frequent beginner error.

If you suffer a subungual hematoma, you will want to drain the blood as soon as possible. Do not attempt this yourself; you might cause even more damage. Seek professional help immediately, which can often be found at the mountain itself.

Taking Care of Problems BEFORE You Hit the Slopes

While you can prepare for a happier and more worry-free trip on the slopes, some of the best actions you can take are well before.

If you are experiencing persistent foot or ankle pain, it’s best to start addressing it as soon as possible, before it becomes a problem that makes your ski time terrible.

If getting your boots on is a bother due to a developing bunion or stiffness in your toe, for example, that’s something you should absolutely not wait on addressing now. We can help you eliminate or manage problems so they don’t become something that will ruin your plans later on.

Schedule an appointment at our Colorado Springs office by calling (719) 266-5000, or fill out our online contact form to have a member of our staff reach out to you during normal office hours.

8580 Scarborough Dr., Ste 120
Colorado Springs, CO 80920

Mon - Fri: 8am - 5pm

P: 719-266-5000
F: 719-266-6596

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