I never complain about Canada’s long, snowy winter as there is nothing I enjoy more than spending a day, or even better, a weekend on the ski slopes. After a stressful and sedentary working week, hitting the hills is a great way to relax the mind and exercise the body. Although skiing is great for your mental and physical health, it is a sport that is very tough on your feet and ankles as they bear the brunt of your workout, helping you make sharp turns, navigate bumps and come to a stop at the end of a fast run. To reduce the risk of blisters, bruises and more serious injury it is essential you wear properly fitted boots.
Whether you are renting ski boots for the day or buying a new pair for the season, look for ones that fit snugly over your ski socks. Although ski boots are by nature restrictive, and are not designed to allow you to walk normally, they should feel comfortable so spend time trying on different brands. Boots that are too tight will cause blisters, may limit the movement of your foot and hurt your toes. Boots that are too loose will not hold your foot and ankle in place, increasing your chance of sustaining a sprain or fracture.
Boots for snowboarding are softer and less restrictive – they must be sturdy and flexible so you can direct your board, jump and do acrobatics – but fit is equally important. As snowboarding boots provide less protection than ski boots, snowboarding has a higher risk of foot injuries.
If you wear a foot orthotic in your street shoes be sure to try on your ski or snowboarding boots with your orthotics. However, if you don’t require a foot orthotic for daily use but ski or snowboard regularly you may benefit from a custom foot orthotic that is specifically designed to fit inside your ski boots. If appropriate for your individual biomechanics, custom foot orthotics will reduce the stress skiing places on your feet, lower your risk of injuries and improve your performance on the slopes.
Although skiing experience, technique and even socks also play an important role in your foot comfort on the slopes, if you end the day with painful, injured, cold feet you need to make some adjustments to your equipment to avoid sustaining more serious damage.
Before heading out to the slopes this season visit a good quality equipment store and get fitted with boots that are right for your individual needs. If you suffer from pre-existing foot conditions such as diabetic neuropathy, bunions, neuromas, corns or calluses, or have suffered foot pain in the past during, or following, a day of skiing book an appointment with your local Canadian Certified Pedorthist and see if a custom foot orthotic will benefit you.
By Steve Stredulinsky, C. Ped (C), Calgary, Alberta