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Playing tennis, racquetball, squash or badminton without proper fitting sneakers can wreak havoc with your feet. Dr. David Davidson is an area foot doctor who has treated many patients with foot injuries from racket-related sports.

He says, "Racket sports involve a great amount of action. There is unusual twisting and turning that causes specific injuries to the foot area. Most of these injuries are caused by poor-fitting footwear and improper wearing of socks. Some of these injuries and how to treat them follow:

Tennis toe: Quick and short steps cause repeated jamming of the toes due to sneakers being too tight and socks too thick. This causes extreme pressure and pain under the nail. Pressure to relieve the pain and swelling is done through various methods by trained professionals.

Blisters: Blisters are caused by a constant rubbing of the skin. The skin keeps moving back and forth which promotes great irritation and pain. The blistered area must be kept clean. A plain antiseptic should be used to heal the injured area. If the blisters are on the soles of the feet special inserts must be used.

Achilles tendinitis: This is an inflammation of the big tendon in back of the heel. It is imperative that this area is warmed up properly. If not, the area can become over stressed. Reaching out for low shots while extending fully may cause a tear in the Achilles. The possibility of tearing the Achilles is increased if a player is wearing footwear that is not compatible to the player's feet. If the Achilles becomes torn, surgery may be needed, and a long period of rehabilitation will follow. It is imperative to stretch this area and all other body parts, before and after playing.

Plantar fasciatis: On the bottom of the foot there is a three-inch ligament from the heel to the arch. If this area becomes stressed and overused, this ligament can be stretched or torn, causing plantar fasciatis. It is a very painful injury. Conservative treatment such as heel lifts and orthotics may be used.

Ankle sprains: Sprains are caused by severe twisting or turning. When a sprain occurs ice should be put on the injury immediately. The injured player should also try to walk as soon as possible.

Dr. Davidson says, "Quick stops, starts, and turns create soft tissue problems. Wearing proper footwear and learning appropriate stretching techniques before and after playing are imperative to cut down on foot injuries."

It is evident that proper footwear for racket sports can greatly reduce the number of foot-related injuries. What are some guidelines and tips that may help?

David Costello is an avid racquetball player. He is the owner of Dave's Shoe Ship and has helped many players find the footwear necessary for preventing injuries.

He says, "Sneakers need different fittings in the arch area to make footwear anatomically correct for each individual. The foot wear manufacturers do not provide this. An experienced person has to help each individual achieve their proper fitting."

Costello stresses that comfort and performance are the two most important variables when purchasing a pair of sneakers. When a customer says that he or she has a wide or narrow foot, that is often misleading. Widths have to be adjusted to each individual.

Costello says, "If an individual puts on new sneakers and they are snug, adjustments have to be made. The sneaker must provide proper support."

Costello points out that sneakers that are too wide can cause blisters. They also raise the risk for strains and sprains as feet slip and slide in the sneakers. If sneakers are too small they will cause nails to bruise and blacken.

Costello says, "There are three main foot types. A pronated foot has a rolling in of the arch. Feet will roll in and swing out. A supine foot will have a higher arch and the foot will be turned in. If you have a neutral arch you are a lucky person, as this is a normal arch."

How do you know which type you are? Pronators have the greatest wear on the inner side of their sneakers. Arches can get tired and ankle problems will occur. The arch of the sneaker must be flattened for more flexibility.

Supinators place more wear on the outside of the sneakers. These type of people may suffer calluses on their feet and can also suffer ankle problems. The sneakers must be adjusted to fit the customer properly.

Players with neutral arches suffer very few problems with their feet, as their sneakers wear evenly on all sides.

Costello said, "I'm always asked, 'How long should I wear my sneakers?' If you're fortunate to have sneakers that fit well you should have them checked every six to 12 months, depending on the number of times you play each week. Even though they may still look good they could be broken down from the inside. This puts a lot more pressure on your foot than you are aware of."

Both Dr. Davidson and Costello realize the importance of a good fit may sound obvious. Unfortunately, many people forget about it when they purchase a new pair of sneakers.

Second serves

The Buffalo Hilton closed its tennis facilities about a year and a half ago. After checking with Amherst Hills, The Village Glen, Southtowns, Sportsplex and White Oaks in St. Catharines, Ont., it is evident that most of the 350 former members are presently playing at one or more of these clubs. . . . Adam Priamo and Kori Grasha each took a giant step in securing the Western New York No. 1 ranking in men's and women's racquetball by winning their divisions in last week's Ektelon Racquetball Championships, held at both the University at Buffalo and the Buffalo Fitness Center. Priamo defeated Jim Juron, 15-6, 15-11, in the Men's Open final. Grasha defeated Mary Kneeland, 15-10, 15-5, in the Women's Open final.

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