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One Step Ahead

Pay attention to your feet and what you put on them - get your base right and see your health and your results improve!

Published September 05, 2012 11:42

One Step Ahead
Jelena Jankovic

The foot is the body's link to the ground; it ideally provides a stable base so we can safely stand, run, jump and play. Its position and activity relative to the ground affects the whole body due to tennis movements being generated from the ground upwards.

The human foot is complex, containing 26 bones, 33 joints, and a network of more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments, as well as blood vessels and nerves.

The demands on the foot in racquet sports are extreme; a player's foot endures repeated load and potential damage. With all the rapid movement and changes it is no surprise that the pattern analysis of shoe wear demonstrates that racquet sports cause your feet and footwear more damage than other sports.

♫... The Hip Bone's Connected to the Thigh Bone... ♫

During activity the ground reaction force travels up from your feet through to your body's joints, muscles, tendons, bones and in tennis into your racquet. This movement of force and coordinated activation of body segments is known as "The Kinetic Chain".

In tennis, the ground is your friend; it generates 51% of kinetic (movement) energy.

It supports your legs and trunk to provide 54% of body force which continues upwards to reach your shoulder, funneling power to your racquet for your strokes.

Movement patterns and the playing surface in racquet sports affect how much force is generated on the body:
• Fast stop or foot plant = highest forces = 4 x bodyweight.
• Side to side shuffling and lateral movements = moderate forces = 2 x bodyweight.
• Pain and injury relate to surface hardness: ↑ court hardness causes more problems.
• Compared with concrete, "softer", natural court surfaces reduce force and ↓ impact on the body:

A Change in the Kinetic Chain

Where your foot meets the ground is your base for good tennis. When the base is stable, strong, injury free and appropriately protected with the right footwear (shoes, socks and maybe orthotics) you have the best chance of playing well and maintaining peak health. A problem at the base changes your kinetic chain pattern.

Pay attention to your feet, get your base right and see your health and your results improve!

Stay On Your Toes!

Keep your base solid and supportive with proper foot wear. It is an integral aspect of your performance as well as your image.

There are three main footwear components to consider:
1. Socks
Did you know? Socks are sport and size specific!
Choose the best sock for you. Consider your foot (size, shape, sweat, and previous injuries) and these sock specifics:
Heat control: aim to reduce heat which causes sweating and friction.
Moisture management: to "wick" moisture away and reduce sliding. Example: "CoolMax".
Shock absorption/padding: helps to absorb shock & reduce stress up into the body.
Antimicrobial Protection: to limit the growth of bacteria and ↓ associated skin problems.
Arch Support: provide custom fit through the midfoot and arch region.
Knit/Materials: to provide good fit with advantages in fabric technology and design.

2. Orthotic Therapy
When "abnormal" foot mechanics exist, where the alignment and movement of a foot result in it hitting the ground incorrectly, injury may occur. Abnormal foot mechanics can be helped in several ways through orthotic therapy which improves the efficiency of foot mechanics to relieve some or all of the stresses on other areas of the body. Orthotic therapy has two components:
Therapeutic exercises strengthen and train the foot and leg to function more effectively.
Orthotic insoles help create a more desirable foot strike by filling the space between the foot and the ground in a specific way within your shoe. Orthotic insoles can be:
1. Non-prescription, which you buy "off the shelf" at shoe stores and pharmacies.
2. Prescription or custom-made which are designed and created by a specialist for your unique foot.
Orthotic insoles are further categorized by the stiffness and durability of their materials:
Rigid = very stiff device to minimize excessive mobility by correcting the position of foot joints.
Semi-rigid = durable, moderately stiff device to control abnormal mobility in the foot.
Accommodative = soft device to cushion the foot in its natural resting position, without control.

3. Shoes
With the significant amount of time you wear them, it is important that you find a quality shoe, which will break-in quickly and enhance your game. The feet are the base of support for the entire body and they need excellent support from a shoe. First consider your foot (size, shape, sweat, and previous injuries) and select a shoe to match your foot's needs. Consider:
Sport-specific: shoe design is activity- specific. Use tennis shoes on court, running shoes to run, fitness shoes for gym.
Size: feet change and grow with age and use; you may not be the same shoe size as before.
Length: longest toe should not touch end of shoe; there should be one finger's width between.
Width: select the right width; avoid cramming your wide foot into narrow shoes.
Depth: depth/height may vary, but minimum standard is to just above the back of heel.
Shape: shape of shoe should match shape of foot - straight or semi-curved.
Flex Point: bend of shoe should line up exactly with bend of toes.
Outsole: sole (bottom of the shoe) should be specific for the court surface:
herringbone for clay, ribbed (radial) for hard courts, pillar (dimpled) to ↑ grip on grass.
• Combination: hard court standard - pivot point, traction and flat-sliding parts strategically placed.
• Shoe traction or "grip" of the outsole helps you start, stop and change directions on court.
• Excess shoe traction (like when your foot gets "jammed" into the court) interferes with foot lift- off and may cause
extra large forces to be transmitted up the kinetic chain which can contribute to injury.
• Outsole wear patterns can indicate when the shoe is losing grip and wearing out and needs to be replaced.
Ventilation: material of upper part should allow foot to breathe to reduce heat and moisture.
Lateral Support: laces and sides of upper should support foot for lateral movements.

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The contents of the Health site are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.

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