Sports & Exercise

Foot Care for Soccer Players: Treatment & Injury Prevention Methods

Soccer has been a popular sport across the world for a very long time. In more recent years, it has surged in popularity throughout the United States. With children and adults alike taking up an interest in the game, it’s important to know how to play a soccer match without getting injured.

Of course, the primary ‘tools’ used in soccer are your feet. So, it’s understandable that sometimes foot injuries do occur during the game. Not all of them are always serious. Sometimes they can be more annoying than dangerous.

But, keeping your feet protected and in good shape will make you a better player, and allow you to remain healthy on the field. Overall foot care and injury prevention isn’t something to take lightly if you’re a keen soccer player.

Soccer foot injuries and treatments are important to know about for people who want to get involved in the sport and play it the right way. You may not be able to avoid injuries. But, you can take the proper precautions to lower the risk of injuring yourself.

How to Prevent Foot Injuries When Playing Football

Soccer (also known as football across the world) is more of a contact sport than many people think. Not only does it require a lot of running and wear and tear on the feet, but there are some serious risks to consider.

These risks can be something as simple as wearing the wrong shoes or having the top of your foot stepped on by a cleat. There are also some common injuries and problems associated with the feet of soccer players. We will focus on some of those injuries, and how you can prevent and treat them as needed.

Painful Blisters When Playing Football

Have you ever asked yourself, ‘why do my football cleats hurt my feet?’ Blisters are one of the most common foot problems for soccer players. They can also be extremely painful when caused by the wrong shoes.

A blister is nothing more than a pocket of fluid that builds up on the skin. They are usually filled with clear liquid, but sometimes can be filled with pus or even blood. We’ll talk about blood blisters later in this article.

Blisters are most commonly caused by the skin rubbing against the inside of a shoe. They typically occur when you wear a pair of new cleats, or shoes that haven’t been properly broken in yet. This can cause a lot of tightness and friction around the skin.

Blisters themselves should be padded and treated with some antibiotic cream when you’re playing. When you’re able to, air them out as much as possible. This will help to dry up the liquid within the pocket.

If you do develop blisters, keep a close eye on them as they can become infected easily. Be sure to keep the area(s) as clean and dry as possible.

What Is a Blood Blister?

A blood blister varies slightly from a ‘regular’ blister. It may be common to get a blood blister on the big toe from soccer. They occur when there is a high amount of pressure to a specific area of the foot – usually the toe. A blood blister indicates injury to small blood vessels in the dermis layer of skin.

A blood blister will start off looking red but will darken with time as the blood dries, turning it a purple or almost black color.

If possible, reduce as much pressure as possible in the area where the blister has formed. A blood blister may seem like a small injury, but if left untreated and ignored, it can take a soccer player away from the game for awhile, until it’s fully healed.

What’s the Difference between a Blister and a Callus?

Blisters and calluses may start out looking similar. But, they are two very different conditions. Calluses are rough areas of skin. These areas become thick due to constant rubbing and friction against the inside of a shoe. They are not filled with fluid like a blister. However, they can be just as painful and dangerous if not properly treated.

If a callus thickens too much, it can cause the skin to crack. This can lead to potential infections or allow a fungus to occur. It can also be extremely painful to play on if you’re putting constant weight and pressure on the open area.

Calluses that become too thick may need to be trimmed or ‘shaven’ back. This can be done with a pumice stone or even certain types of nail clippers. If you’re nervous about trimming your calluses or aren’t sure of the right way to do it, a podiatrist can do it for you.

Choosing the Right Kind of Shoes

Blisters, calluses, bunions, athlete’s foot, and toenail fungus can all become common injuries and conditions for soccer players. This is mostly because they share a common cause: Shoes that don’t fit correctly.

Athletes are especially susceptible to these conditions because they have an increased chance of excessive sweating. They also often experience repeated trauma to the toes by kicking a ball, jamming the toes into the top of the shoe while running, etc.

Not only can the wrong shoes cause a lot of foot pain, but if you get a fungal infection, it can lead to a black toenail or necessary removal of the nail. Calluses and bunions can also take you out of the game until they have cleared up.

So, how can you avoid these conditions? While they aren’t 100% preventable, there are some precautionary measures you can take. The best one is to make sure your cleats fit your feet properly. If you find that they are a bit snug, try using a shoe stretching device. Or, try a shoe stretching liquid spray.

A spray like Kiwi SELECT Universal allows you to disperse the liquid throughout your shoe, and slide your feet in. Your shoes will then stretch out perfectly, and offer you a ‘custom fit.’ Some sneakers and shoes made from synthetic material have a harder time stretching out, so it may take more than one application to get the fit just right.

Athlete’s Foot and Toenail Fungus

Once your soccer shoes fit properly, it’s important to make sure you take care of them to protect your feet. As stated above, one of the biggest issues for soccer players is that they may sweat more than the average person. A lot of this sweat will come out through the feet.

Not only can sweaty feet cause a bad smell, but they can be dangerous. One of the most common foot conditions facing soccer players is athlete’s foot. This is a fungal infection that usually starts off between the toes.

People who sweat profusely in their shoes are also susceptible to toenail fungus. This condition is similar to athlete’s foot but actually, occurs underneath the nail. Both are considered to be fungal conditions.

Fungus thrives in warm, moist, dark environments. Cleats are a perfect place for these conditions to grow and spread. Some of the symptoms you might notice are:

  • Discoloration of the nail
  • Scaly rash (athlete’s foot)
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Thick, hard toenails
  • Bad smell coming from the feet/nails

As stated above, in extreme cases of toenail fungus the nail may have to be removed. The best thing you can do is pay attention to your feet to look for early signs and symptoms of these conditions. The sooner you start to treat them, the less time it will take for them to clear up.

Our top pick for treating toenail fungus is the Purely Northwest Toenail Fungus System. It uses all natural ingredients to clear up fungal infections. Plus, it offers a relaxing soak that can help with aches and pains within your feet.

It’s also recommended that you don’t go barefoot in public gyms or locker rooms. Wear shower shoes or sandals when you’re in these places to avoid contracting and spreading a fungal infection of any kind. Additionally, be sure to keep your feet as dry as possible at all times.

Skin Fissures or Cracked Skin from Too Much Sweat

Another problem with excessive sweating is that it can be the culprit behind skin fissures. These are cracks in the skin between the toes. Cracked skin can also occur commonly along the heel. You may not think wetness would cause your skin to crack, but these areas are extremely vulnerable and susceptible. As your skin pulls when it’s sweaty, it can crack open easily.

If not properly treated, it’s easy for bacteria or fungus to form in these cracks, which can create even bigger problems. If you notice any cuts or cracks along the foot or between the toes, apply a topical antibiotic treatment as often as directed. Also, work to keep your shoes and feet as dry as possible at all times. You may want to start some treatment for athlete’s foot as a precautionary measure.

Feet hurting from playing soccer

What to Do About Sweaty Shoes

If your feet do sweat a lot while you’re playing the game, that sweat can linger in your shoes. There are several things you can do to wick away moisture and keep your shoes and feet as dry as possible. By doing this, you’ll significantly lower your risk of an infection. It will also help to lower your chances of calluses, blisters, etc.

  • Wear the right kind of socks – Choose socks that are designed for sweaty feet. They can help to wick away moisture and absorb it safely without letting it sit at the bottom of your foot.
  • Alternate your shoes – If you have more than one pair of football shoes, try alternating them each day. Or, be sure to give them adequate time to dry out completely before wearing them again.
  • Sprinkle with baking soda – Sprinkling the inside of your shoes with baking soda each night will help to absorb excess moisture. This will keep your shoes from smelling bad, but can also ensure they will be dry the next time you wear them.
  • Wear flip-flops at home – Let your feet air out as much as possible when you can. The safest place to do this is in the comfort of your own home. Go barefoot or wear sandals to give your feet a break from the enclosed, warm, moist environment of traditional soccer cleats.

There are many things you can do to keep moisture out of your shoes. It all starts from within, though. Be sure to eat properly, avoid drinking alcohol and smoking, and practice proper hygiene with your feet. It’s hard to prevent your feet sweating during a game of soccer. But, the more you can do to prevent excessive sweat, the better.

Loss of a Toenail

Soccer is an incredibly physical sport. Sometimes, the top of your foot can get stepped on by a cleat. Or, you can experience foot pain from kicking a soccer ball. These types of trauma can sometimes create pooling of blood underneath the toenail. This underlying bleeding is referred to as a subungual hematoma.

If a subungual hematoma occurs, you will likely need to go to a podiatrist. They can drain the blood out from underneath. In some cases, the toenail may fall off due to the extent of the damage. It can take up to a full year for a toenail to grow back. While you don’t have to stop playing during that time, proper padding of the toe will be required. You will also need to take extra care to avoid bacterial or fungal infections to the exposed area.

Foot Sprain

There is a high concentration of ligaments in the feet. When those ligaments go through things like tearing, over-stretching, or even severed, it can result in a foot sprain. Some torn ligament in the foot symptoms include:

  • Pain near the arch of the foot
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Not being able to put any weight on the foot

The worse the sprain or tear is, the harder it will be to use that foot. They are typically caused by accidentally rolling the foot too far inward or outward.

In most cases, sprains can be dealt with using the ‘RICE’ method of treatment:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Cold and compression
  • Elevation

For severe sprains, some type of immobilization of the foot and ankle may be required. Mid-foot sprain recovery time depends on the severity of the tear. Minor sprains can take just a couple weeks, while more severe sprains can take up to two full months for complete recovery.

Irritation Caused by Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a condition that occurs when the tissue on the sole of the foot is irritated or injured. This tissue goes all the way from the heel to your toes. In soccer, irritation typically occurs because you’re pounding your feet against hard surfaces while running.

One of the most common symptoms is a stabbing pain in the heel. At times the pain can feel sharp. But, to rule out other conditions, it’s best to have a doctor diagnose this particular condition.

There are various treatment options for plantar fasciitis, including things like massage therapy, pain medication, or even cortisone injections. One of the easiest ways to find relief and avoid the condition in the future is to add extra padding to your cleats.

Inserts like the Superfeet Green Heritage Insoles will add extra cushion to your feet and heels while keeping them dry. Insoles like these are great because they are long-lasting and durable. They can also help to lower your risk of bacterial or fungal infections.

Broken Bone or a Bone Bruise

Aside from skin conditions, toe issues and potentially torn ligaments, one of the biggest things soccer players have to worry about is breaking a bone. As you might expect, it’s one of the more serious injuries a player can go through because it takes a long time to heal.

In soccer, broken bones usually occur when someone gets stepped on or kicked. It will usually instantly bring on a lot of pain and immobility. Sometimes, you can even hear the break as it happens. The best thing to do in this situation is to stop all movement immediately, ice and elevate the area, and get to a doctor.An official X-Ray of the bone will need to be performed to ensure it’s fractured or broken. Unfortunately, the only treatment option to heal a broken bone is complete immobility. For a foot or ankle injury, this usually requires a cast or boot of some kind.

An official X-Ray of the bone will need to be performed to ensure it’s fractured or broken. Unfortunately, the only treatment option to heal a broken bone is complete immobility. For a foot or ankle injury, this usually requires a cast or boot of some kind.

A bone bruise doesn’t signify a break or fracture. Instead, it is a breakage of tissue on or around a bone. It’s typically caused in the same way, either by being kicked or another type of blunt force. As the tissue continues to break, your body will send extra fluid and blood to the area.This can be extremely painful and make it difficult to apply pressure to the foot. Many times, an X-Ray will still be required to ensure the bone isn’t broken. Treatment ranges from anti-inflammatory medications to immobilization.

This can be extremely painful and make it difficult to apply pressure to the foot. Many times, an X-Ray will still be required to ensure the bone isn’t broken. Treatment ranges from anti-inflammatory medications to immobilization.

football cleats don't fit properly and hurt my feet

How to Prevent Foot Injuries in Soccer

Because soccer is such a fast-paced sport, it’s not always possible to prevent injuries completely. However, there are some steps you can take to lower your overall risk. Put these preventative measures into practice, and you’ll be less likely to experience foot problems throughout your soccer career.

  • Warm up properly: When your muscles are ‘cold,’ they are more prone to injury. This can lead to things like torn ligaments and sprains. Always take the time to do a proper warm up and some light, active stretching. This can include everything from jumping jacks to circling your feet back and forth for 30 seconds.
  • Cool down properly: Equally important to a warm up is a cool down. It’s easy to want to relax after practice or a game, but not taking the time to cool down your body can cause injury. Stretch out your muscles, including your legs, ankles, and feet. Not only will this type of stretching feel good, but it can help you from pulling something or cramping up.
  • Wear the right equipment: Shin guards should always be worn in soccer to protect your legs and feet. This can help to prevent breaks, fractures, and bruising if you get kicked or stepped on. Additionally, make sure you’re wearing the right shoes with a proper fit. Add cushioned insoles if needed to provide extra padding into your cleats.
  • Be prepared for injuries: Despite your best efforts, foot injuries may occur. Either make sure your coach or team has a first aid kit on hand, or always bring one for yourself.

Why Proper Foot Care Is Important for Athletes

Proper foot care is important for everyone. Far too often, we tend to ignore our feet until a problem occurs. Or, we don’t get the right kind of diagnosis and treatment for different foot, skin, or toe(nail) conditions. For athletes, however, it’s even more important to pay close attention to the overall health of your feet. Soccer players depend on healthy feet to play the game properly.

While it’s not always possible to prevent injuries or foot conditions from occurring, there are things you can do to lower your chances. Maintaining healthy foot hygiene is the best place to start. The next best thing you can do is to take care of your shoes. This includes making sure footwear fit properly, they have enough padding, and they aren’t constantly moist from perspiration.

With proper foot care always in mind, you can lower your risk of potential injury as a soccer player. If you do develop a foot or toe condition, you’ll have the resources to treat them effectively and as quickly as possible. We hope this article has provided you with answers to several common foot problems, and some solutions on how you can take better care of your feet in such an active and fast-paced game.