It’s official: Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America, with 48.3 million American adults — retirees and college kids alike — having played at least one game in the past year.
Alas, with any sport comes the increased likelihood of injury, and when it comes to pickleball, your feet and ankles are most at risk. Here, podiatry expert Kelly L. Geoghan, DPM, offers your ultimate guide to pickleball-related foot injuries — and how to avoid them.
The “pickle” of pickleball
Pickleball is three sports in one. It combines the best aspects of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong to create a sport that’s equally accessible, athletic, and competitive.
However, those three activities are notorious for causing several foot and ankle problems. Pickleball requires frequent side-to-side and fast-twitch movements and plenty of pounding the pavement to chase a dink with your backhand.
For that reason, the muscles, tendons, and nerves in your feet undergo intense stress while you play, making you vulnerable to injuries such as:
- Strains and sprains
- Stress fractures
- Achilles tendonitis or a tendon rupture
- Plantar fasciitis
- Turf toe
If you already have a foot condition, like arthritis, playing pickleball might exacerbate your symptoms.
We know your league depends on your killer serve, but we strongly recommend stopping play at the first sign of pain. Letting even the slightest injury go untreated can result in more time on the sidelines.
Fortunately, Dr. Geoghan has years of experience treating these common sports injuries and can help you get back to playing shape. Depending on your injury, she may recommend:
- RICE protocol
- Stretching exercises
- Physical therapy
- Multiwave Locked System (MLS) laser therapy
- Shockwave therapy
- Strapping, bracing, splinting, or compression wrapping
- Custom orthotics
- Oral medications
- Footwear and mechanic improvements
Dr. Geoghan only recommends surgery in the most severe cases. For instance, plantar fasciitis that doesn’t resolve with conservative treatments may require surgical fasciotomy to release the tight plantar fascia.
Avoiding future injuries
Injury prevention often starts with wearing the right shoes. And the best shoes for pickleball aren’t necessarily your favorite pair of running shoes.
Look for light, durable, and reinforced shoes in areas where your feet take on the most impact. Your shoes should also have plenty of traction and ankle support to accommodate sudden stops and turns.
Depending on the surfaces you play on most, you may consider court shoes designed to help you make those necessary fast-twitch movements.
You should also swap out your shoes at the first sign of wear and tear. If you play pickleball often, that may mean buying a new pair every few months.
Other foot and ankle prevention tips include:
- Strengthening the muscles in your feet and ankles
- Using proper form and technique while playing
- Warming up and cooling down
- Stretching every day
Above all, the best way to stay on the court and off the sidelines is to team up with Dr. Geoghan. She can help you address pain and injuries in their earliest stages so you can stay at the top of your league.
If you have more questions about injury prevention or you’re concerned about foot or ankle pain, contact Kelly L. Geoghan, DPM, in Lutherville, Maryland, to get started today.