Played by more than 1 billion people all over the world, the game of tennis is a demanding one. Continual stops, starts, running, shuffling and rapid pivots can all take a toll on your feet. Most of us aren’t playing on grass courts, either, so there’s the stress of the hard surface at work, too.
Sprains, fractures and other injuries are very common in tennis because of the way it’s played. And whether you’re a pro or an amateur, you need to protect your feet from the world of pain tennis is capable of inflicting on them.
This is a high impact game – for your feet – so protecting them is a priority. Keep in mind that it was a foot injury that kept Rafael Nidal out of the 2006 Australian Open.
The Right Stuff
Because of the special requirements of the tennis court, special shoes which are purpose-built for the sport are necessary.
Every sport has its preferred footwear, but tennis footwear is specially designed to accommodate the start/stop aspects of the game. For that reason, tennis shoes have a built-in padded toe box, protecting your vulnerable toes from the possibility of impact against the front of the shoe.
They’re also built for more flexibility. With tennis, the heels of the shoes you choose should fit snugly to keep your foot from sliding inside the shoe. There should be cushioning in the heels, also. The arches should be supportive and the toe of the shoe should not only contain padding, but enough depth to prevent banging your toenails while playing. That can cost you a nail.
If you’re out there shoe shopping, waiting until the afternoon to try candidates on is a good bet. Your feet will be a little swollen from being on them all day. Note that your ankle should feel fully supported.
Training and Preparation
The court is where the action happens, but to be at your best, training and preparation are important. Just sidling onto the court after a long period of inactivity is a recipe for imminent disaster.
Prepare your body for the strength, agility, speed and endurance you’ll need while playing by training in other disciplines, like running, swimming and weight training. Don’t forget your feet, either.
We don’t often think about our feet as needing attention to serve us well, but tennis players need to. Keeping them supple and strong is an imperative of the game. Stretch them, not just before a game, but as part of your daily routine.
Flexing the feet and the pointing them, slowly and deliberately, is a helpful practice in this regard.
Especially if you don’t play as often as you like, you should be well-prepared before picking up that racket. Conditioning your body prior to engaging in a challenging sport like tennis is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid injury – to your feet or anywhere else.
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