Playing the Field: A Sportsperson's Guide to Athlete's Foot
Playing sports has a great effect on our health, but not always on our feet. If you play sports regularly, it’s important to protect your soles from the minefield of sports-related problems out there – from athlete’s foot and verrucas to ensuring your footwear helps, rather than hinders, your play.
When we run, our body weight is multiplied up to three times, and our feet take the strain of this extra weight with every stride (and that’s an average of 625 strides per kilometer, per foot ). So if you’re running around a football pitch or tennis court for hours on end, or playing a full round of golf, your feet are going to need some extra foot care at the end of the day. Many people who play field sports end up with blisters, corns, calluses, athlete’s foot and strong foot odour, but there are ways you can protect yourself.
Top tips for sporty feet
- Get the right footwear for the sport you’re playing and the surface you’re playing on. There shouldn’t be any signs of pressure on the foot after a game. When buying shoes, make sure you can wiggle your toes a little in the shoe and remember that feet are often biggest in the afternoon and evening.
- If you’re playing football, avoid choosing tight-fitting boots for better ball control, as this can damage feet and lead to corns, calluses and ingrown toenails.
- Remember that running shoes aren’t suitable footwear for racket sports; specially-designed shoes offer more stability for side-to-side movement and are weightier and stiffer so that toes are supported better while playing racket sports.
- Wash your feet every day and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes, to help prevent fungal infections such as athlete’s foot.
- If you need insoles, invest in some good quality ones. They can help relieve pain and provide extra cushioning were needed.
- Treat blisters, corns and calluses as soon as they appear.
- Ensure you let your footwear dry out fully to avoid lingering foot odour.
In the changing room
It’s not just the physical stresses and strains of sports that can damage your feet - changing room floors and damp, sweaty shoes are the ideal places for you to pick up infections such as athlete’s foot and verrucas. In fact, athlete’s foot is such a common problem that estimations show, at any point in time, around 15 to 25 per cent of the world’s population have it. Symptoms include dry, flaky skin on your soles, an unpleasant foot odour, and small itchy bubbles or blisters on your feet. It’s important to treat athlete’s foot as it can spread if you scratch it and then touch another part of your body. It can also spread via contaminated sheets or clothing. Fortunately, most cases of athlete’s foot are mild and can be treated at home within about a week with antifungal products.
It’s not always possible to prevent athlete’s foot, but you’ll protect yourself better if you:
- Don’t wear tight-fitting shoes, which make feet warm and moist, creating ideal conditions for fungal infections.
- Don’t share other people’s towels, shoes or clothing.
- Don’t walk barefoot around communal showers, changing rooms or swimming pools.
- Wash your feet and dry them thoroughly, paying particular attention between your toes.
- Wash your socks and towels in the hottest water possible if you suspect you have athlete’s foot.