As temperatures drop and snow begins to fall across the country, winter snow gear, sleds, skis, snowmobiles and ice fishing gear are being pulled from the closets. So, what is it that you need to know this winter about keeping your feet safe, warm and properly outfitted?
1. Safety: The most important thing to keep in mind is safety and not just regarding your feet, but also protecting your head. Make sure that when you head out to engage in winter fun, you dress warmly, wear your helmet and follow safety guidelines. Know the temperatures, mountain conditions, weather forecast and your abilities all before leaving the house. If you are new to the sport, it is also important that you take a lesson to ensure your safety and the safety of others.
2. Blended Wool not Cotton Socks: By design, cotton is a material that absorbs and retains moisture. With any activity, feet tend to sweat and those cotton socks you’ve been wearing won’t do anything to keep your feet dry. Wet socks lead to decreased foot temperatures and increased incidence of friction, blisters, and ulceration especially in the diabetic population. Wool has a tendency to wick away moisture, so that is a much better option over cotton. Polypropylene and other synthetic fibers also trump cotton in wicking away moisture.
3. Choosing the Right Boots: Whether your skiing, snowboarding or heading out to build a snowman with your family, you need to have boots that are designed and fitted for your sport. Make sure that when you try on a boot, it fits along the foot maintaining appropriate circulation but slightly snug so that when the boots “break-in” after several wears, they still fit. They should be properly padded around the ankle and they should never be too stiff. Finally, try boots on before you make the purchase!! It sounds ridiculous, but many patrons do not try on a pair of boots before they hand over their credit cards and are simply buying based on the style and color of the boots. This is a major no-no! Put them on, run around the store, kneel down and stress the boots as they will be stressed once you get them home. If they feel comfortable after all that, then its safe to add them to your closet.
4. Custom Foot-Beds: First and foremost, do not put custom orthotics, made for running and hiking into your ski and snowboarding boots. Your custom orthotics CAN be inserted into snow boots for shoveling and trekking to the convenient store and they CAN be transferred into your snowmobiling boots, and sledding gear. The reason they should not be inserted to skiing or snowboarding boots is that in those sports you are not moving through the traditional phases of the gait cycle. Skiing and snowboarding puts the body, legs and feet into mid-stance thus forces across the foot that occur with walking and running are completely different than those that occur during skiing. If you are having pains in the feet and/or knees with your winter activities, see your local podiatrist and bring your boots along with you. Custom orthotics can be fabricated to support your foot in mid-stance thus providing proper alignment while engaging in activity.
5. Keep in shape: Next week we will be discussing off-season and in-season strengthening exercises to keep you strong throughout the winter season. Staying in shape for the activities which you plan to engage in will keep you safe and allow you to engage up to your abilities without overshooting and injuring yourself.