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Hitting the Slopes? Think of Your Feet!

Dr. Michelle Castiello, Podiatry

January 19, 2022

Hitting the Slopes? Think of Your Feet!

About 59 million skiers visited U.S. resorts in the 2020-21 winter season, whose peak is December through April.

Since we ski with the feet and ankles, it is important to protect and take care of our feet when we partake in this very popular winter sport.

Here are tips on how to protect your feet and ankles on the slopes this winter season:

1. Make Sure the Boots Fit. Get fitted into your ski boots by an expert. Try on a number of models and wear them around the shop before making your choice. Properly fitting ski boots should feel supportive and tight around the heel and arch, while leaving room for you to wiggle your toes.

Boots that are too tight or too loose can result in blisters, ankle injuries, and/or a day of painful skiing.

2. Wear the Right Socks. When you try on the boots, ensure you are wearing the socks you plan to wear while skiing. Changing socks can alter the fit of the boot. Ski boots are designed to keep your feet warm and well-insulated, so socks that draw moisture away from your feet are important. Wool socks or a synthetic blend are best; avoid cotton socks, which can make your feet cold, cause blisters from the friction, and even promote fungal growth.

3. Open Your Ski Boots When Resting. If you take a break from skiing, unbuckle your boots and open them up to allow warmer air to circulate. Doing this for even just 10 minutes will allow your feet to get exposed to room temperature air while also changing the circulation in your lower leg.

4. Wash Feet Immediately After Skiing. Washing your feet with warm soap and water and putting on fresh socks will not only keep your feet clean and dry, but also help deter fungal growth.

5. Make Sure Feet Are Warm. Dry feet are warm feet. Only wear one pair of socks; synthetics that divert sweat are best. If you feel the need for added foot warmth, toe-warming inserts can be placed inside your ski boots. Skiers with diabetes, poor circulation, and neuropathy should avoid using foot warmers without first speaking to their podiatrist.

6. Walk Around in the Ski Boots Before Skiing. In order to reduce the stress on your feet, put your ski boots on several times at home before hitting the slopes and walk in them to make them flex.

Most common foot problems that occur while skiing:

Blisters and bruises from ski boots, typically on the ankle bone, toes, top of the foot and front of the shin. Do not pop a blister; if it breaks on its own, treat with an antibiotic cream. If it persists, see a podiatrist.

Damaged toenails, or “skier’s toe,” is a subungual hematoma that occurs when bleeding takes place beneath the toenail, See a podiatrist to drain the blood as soon as possible. In some cases, repetitive trauma to your toenails may result in more permanent damage, such as thickened nails or ingrowing toenails.

Diabetes or Raynaud’s Syndrome, which both affect circulation, are made worse by the cold. If you have these conditions, carefully monitor your feet when skiing. The best advice is to consult your podiatrist before you hit the slopes.

Chilblains are itchy blisters that can occur in cold conditions, usually on the toes but also on fingers. Again, keeping the areas warm and dry is the best way to prevent them.

Following these tips can ensure you have a safe and enjoyable day on the slopes!

Dr. Michelle Castiello

Dr. Michelle Castiello is a podiatrist at Scarsdale Medical Group, seeing patients at 600 Mamaroneck Avenue, Suite 102 in Harrison. To make an appointment, call 914-723-8100.