Bunions may hamper winter sports performance

One of my favorite parts of wintertime is hitting the slopes or the ice rink to feel the rush of adrenaline during these high-speed activities. OK, I lied. My favorite part is drinking spiked hot chocolate and scouring resorts for good-looking men. It's just so much more enjoyable, especially because ski boots and ice skates tend to make my bunions ache.

There are a number of factors that make bunions and winter sports a bad combination. For one, boots and skates often leave little room for the bony deformity. Another reason is that bunions and hammer toe can cause imbalanced biomechanics, and unstable feet and ankles are hardly practical when you're sailing over ice or snow at high speeds.

But since the ski resort employees are beginning to question my motives for hanging out there all winter, I did some research on how to more comfortably engage in winter sports.

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) reports that the high speeds and hairpin turns made by skaters have a tendency to exacerbate foot conditions, which may ultimately lead to hindered performance. Additionally, skiing requires stable ankles in order to move in a straight line, and this is especially true on those Black Diamond mountains.

Hm. Perhaps I'll stick to boy-watching and sipping booze. But, no! I'll resist. I've made a New Year's resolution to try new things.

Some new boots and skates may be in order, however, since the APMA recommends properly fitted footwear in order to keep feet in tip-top shape and prevent injuries during winter activities.

"If you are not sure your ski boots or skates fit properly, or if an apparently proper-fitting pair still hurts, take them to a podiatric physician, who can evaluate the fit and make recommendations to improve both comfort and performance on the ice or slopes," according to the APMA website.

Additionally, orthotics can easily be placed inside boots or skates to improve arch support and distribute weight evenly across the foot.

Southern Ski Tools makes a device that may add some extra space for bunions or hammer toe. The company's Toe Jam Spreader can be supplemented with a tool called a Bunion Popper that stretches out boots to make room for bony deformities.

Of course, if bunions or hammer toe are keeping you from engaging in your favorite winter sports, you can try bunion splints or orthotics. These devices may be best enjoyed with your feet up, in front of a toasty fire after a long day of skiing.