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Anf's picture
Looking after your feet

This is something that a lot of people seem to overlook. When we train martial arts, we really put our feet through their paces. Often training in bare feet on a hard surface, routinely shifting our entire weight plus the acceleration and braking of a kick passing through a small area of one foot. Landing from a jumping kick, or kicking pads, fellow students, or hard objects like breaking boards. We pay a lot of attention to training the strength of our muscles, to perfecting our techniques, but our poor feet silently endure the huge forces of us pushing ourselves to our limits, often completely taken for granted.

I'm one of those people that used to take my feet for granted. That is until arthritis was confirmed in one foot, suspected in the other. Almost certainly not exclusively from training I should say. My feet have been through a lot and taken many injuries throughout my life. But I also have a number of classic 'overuse injuries', namely tendonitis and a bruised bone that is taking a very long time to settle.

What I realise now is that to stop training would be foolish. It would equate to failure. But it would be even more foolish to continue to train the way I have been training. The goal is to become more able, not to prove how much self abuse one can endure. Which leaves only one option. To train, but to include in the self development plan some kind of regime to look after my feet. Low impact strengthening and stretching seems in order. Massage perhaps. Maybe liberal use of tiger balm. Maybe some change to diet or nutrition.

I have two aims in writing this post. Firstly, I hope that instructors and students alike might give a bit more thought to repetitive injury prevention. And secondly, I'm wondering if anyone has any tips for restoring worn out feet. Thanks for reading.

Paul_L's picture

I would be interested in any advice. I started Karate around 20 months ago and since then my Karate foot injuries include:

After only two weeks myy right big toenail was ripped off.

In the summer during sparring I executed a right front kick at the same time as my sparring partner bought his knee up. I clipped my outside metatarsal pretty hard and I have never been able to move my little toe in the same again.

Around the same time I done something to my left big toe. Not sure what but it still swells up a littlle and it hurts to bend it still, but is fine otherwise.

last month or so while pad training I executed a fantastic roundhouse kick, or it would have been if it was on target. Instead of blasting into the pad the top of my foot hit my friends elbow. He was fine, but I stil have a lump on the top of my foot.

Anf's picture

Paul_L, the big toe thing could be what is informally known as turf toe. That's a blanket term for pain and stiffness in the big toe joint, usually as a result of a sprain, caused by the big toe being forced upward and back. The turf toe label comes from the fact it's common in footballers, but we take the same kind of forces and suffer the same kind of injuries. Of course I must state that I'm not qualified to make a diagnosis, and even if I was, I wouldn't have enough to go on from a short forum post, but it might be worth checking out. Especially since they can take like forever to heal because that particular joint is in use in pretty much everything we do. I've got one. It's been there for over a year now because I ignored it for too long.

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Hi Anf

Rest, massage, mobilty and strenght exercises that would be my suggestion. For training using a prottective gear (instep and shin protectors). 

In my club we rarely use kicking with the foot we focus on shin. What I noticed moving to UK that doctors, schools and parents not paying much attention to the feet, specially in children. This is leading to a lot of people with flat feet , causing problems and pain. In Poland(not sure if it still the same) for example every child was screen for flat feet and if necessary send for rehab and exercising of the foot musculature.

Strong and heathy feet help to keep knees, hips and spine in order.

Kind regards