Foot Health for Tennis, Baseball and Softball
Tennis, baseball and softball present particular challenges for your feet due to the movements they require. Proper conditioning and foot health are important for you to enjoy participating.
Five primary foot movements in tennis put an extraordinary amount of stress on the feet:
- Short sprints (typically less than 10 – 15 feet in distance) produce shear stress that can lead to blistering and damage to the fat pads.
- Short jumps and hops such as the split step and drop step produce impact and shear stress, resulting in potential trauma to the feet, including stress fractures, bruising, blistering and forefoot pain.
- Lateral movements such as shuffle steps, slides, crossover steps and sideways sprints produce the potential for strains and sprains, shear stress on feet and skin/soft tissue trauma.
- Pivots and rapid directional changes such as crossovers and recoveries increase shear stress on the feet and may produce soft tissue trauma and increase the risk of strains and sprains.
- Lunging / extending produces strong impact on the forefoot and heel, shear stress on soft tissues, trauma to the feet and potential muscle strains.
The surface on which you play influences the amount of stress on the feet. Grass and clay tend to yield, and therefore are much easier on the feet and legs. Hard surfaces, which are more likely to be found on public courts, produce more foot and leg stress. Whatever surface you choose, make sure to be in good shape. Tennis can be hard on the entire body, and it is much easier to injure yourself if you are not in good playing condition.
Tips for Choosing Tennis Footwear
- Choose tennis footwear that is appropriate for the surface on which you will be playing (clay, grass, synthetic, and paved or hard composition surfaces are the most common).
- If you have had previous ankle injuries or are inclined to twist or sprain your ankles, choose shoes with good ankle support.
- For optimal protection, IPFH recommends wearing properly selected and fitted, as part of an integrated approach, padded socks with your shoes, and any inserts or orthotics prescribed or recommended by a doctor or foot health professional.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) offers some good information about tennis footwear at this link: http://www.itftennis.com/scienceandmedicine/equipment/footwear.aspx
Baseball and Softball
The cleated shoes that are typically worn for baseball and softball present special problems for the feet. They have stiff outer soles, and are designed to grip the playing surface and provide stability in running, moving laterally, and making quick stops and starts. Follow the integrated approach to fitting your padded socks, shoes and any inserts or orthotics. Your feet should feel comfortable immediately; don’t expect an ill-fitting shoe to feel better after it’s “broken in.” Cleated shoes typically fit snugly, so be sure to allow for sufficient room in the shoes when getting fitted. Shoes that are too snug may cut off circulation and inhibit the motion of your feet. Click here to get printable instructions for getting a proper fit using the integrated approach.