The single most common soccer foot problem, this opinion is gleaned from many years of treating elite (and some not so elite) soccer players rather than any formal research, is blisters. Everyone knows that even a tiny blister is sore, but a large blister on the ball of the foot of an athlete who still has to train? Absolutely debilitating.
There are two types of blisters: – Bullae, which are usually caused by friction but can also be caused by a burn, and Vesicles, which are tiny pin-prick blisters caused by skin irritation or allergy.
Friction blisters, the small ones, can be due to boots or trainers which are new or don’t fit. Much more prevalent early in the season are big blisters on the ball of the foot. These are caused by a combination of playing on hard pitches and feet which have become softened due to pre-season layoff.
Blisters are easy to treat effectively. Podiatrists use dressings which are expertly tailored to the patient and specifically designed to cut down friction. Foot orthotics can also be useful when blisters are persistent. Footwear should comfortably accomodate both the orthotic AND the foot. The foot orthotics cause a barely perceptible change in plantar forces which allows the blister to heal. More normal loading of the foot while the orthotics are worn reduces the risk of further blistering.
Less common foot problems in soccer:
Ingrown toenails – removing a portion of nail rather than the whole nail ensures faster healing. A section of nail root can also be removed under local anaesthetic. This can be done mid-season since healing is usually quite rapid.
Callousities, corns and damaged or thickened toenails – some players need regular palliative podiatry care for these. Any nail surgery needed where the whole nail needs to come off is best carried out at the end of the season.
Athletes Foot – caused by a fungal infection. Medicated creams for nighttime use and powder for daytime use can be prescribed. A skin scraping can be taken to identify the infecting organism if needed. If the feet sweat excessively this should also be addressed.