Concussions, torn ligaments, and broken bones often come to mind when parents think about sports injuries their children may face. But they shouldn't forget their children's feet, since they too are used - and often overused - in many sports and can be susceptible to injuries and other issues.
The following eight tips can help you keep your child's feet as healthy and injury-free as possible:
1. Provide the right shoes For children age 10 and younger, an all-purpose sports shoe will suit their needs for most sports, according to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. The exception is running shoes, which can can make it more difficult to move laterally. After age 10, sport-specific shoes are recommended.
2. Buy more than one pair Children should rotate between at least two pairs of shoes when they practice and play. This will help minimize excessive wear and ensure that shoes can thoroughly dry out between practices.
3. Check their shoes regularly Children's feet can grow quickly, so the shoes that fit fine several months ago may now be too small. Also inspect their shoes regularly for signs of excessive wear.
4. Encourage your child to diversify When you were growing up, you were probably encouraged to participate in a variety of sports. But children today can be pushed toward specializing in just one sport at a very early age. This means that they repeat the same motions over and over, making their ankles and feet more susceptible to injury from overuse. Encourage your child to try different sports.
5. Promote proper conditioning The chance of developing a foot problem can be lowered with proper conditioning. Good warm-up and stretching routines, for example, can reduce your child's risk of developing many foot problems, including Achilles tendinitis, an overuse injury.
6. Monitor practice surfaces Your child runs a greater risk of injuring his or her feet by practicing on concrete. Make sure they practice on surfaces like asphalt, grass, or gym floors, which aren't as hard.
7. Practice good hygiene Encourage your child to never share socks or shoes, since the bacteria that cause athlete's foot and toenail fungus can be passed from athlete to athlete. Your child should also wear flip-flops in locker rooms or common shower areas.
8. Maintain good communication Encourage your child to tell you about any discomfort or pain they may have. "Playing through pain" is often a point of pride in sports, but that can lead to making an injury worse. Make sure your child receives the proper treatment and rest instead of rushing back to practice before an injury heals completely. If your child is injured you'll want to visit a podiatrist as soon as possible.
Any sport carries a risk of injury, but by providing the proper equipment and guidance, you can help minimize your child's chance of foot problems.