Rock climbing places extreme forces on both the upper and lower extremities of an individual necessitating a smooth integration between physiological and environmental factors.
Among the key physiological factors required for competitive and recreational rock climbing – strength, power, endurance and flexibility – are widely regarded as essential components for a successful performance.
Most foot injuries associated with rock climbing occur due to the small, specialised footwear used for the sport or ground falls resulting from loss of balance or grip.
With regard to footwear, Schöffl and Küpper rightly point out that majority of climbing foot injuries result from wearing climbing shoes that are unnaturally shaped or too small in size.
Footwear for rock climbing is often asymmetrical in shape to enhance foot contact with surfaces and to decrease the length of the forefoot arm against ground reaction forces.
The reduction in shoe size implies that the foot is forced to conform to the shoe which alters the biomechanical positioning of the foot within the shoe; there is dorsiflexion of the proximal phalanges and plantar flexion of the metatarsal heads with tightening of the plantar fascia, especially on the medial column of the foot.
As noted by the authors, lateral X rays within the climbing shoe show that there is normal foot weight distribution onto the first and fifth metatarsal heads only with no weight dispersed onto the heel.
Buda et al. examined a large sample of climbers for chronic diseases of the foot such as metatarsalgia, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis and ankle sprains, and to correlate them with foot morphology, shoe type, and the type of climbing practiced.
The authors observed that the development of recurrent ankle sprains was related to the presence of varus and valgus axial deviations of the hindfoot. Flat feet were particularly more susceptible to these sprains due to ligamentous laxity.
Based on these findings, the study concluded that in order to implement effective preventive or therapeutic measures, it is essential to have a deep knowledge of the foot diseases normally incurred by climbers and their predisposing factors.
A MASS4D® customised orthotic intervention can help address structural problems of the foot, which need to be treated in order to eradicate compensatory movements that could further exacerbate pressure on the joints, muscles and tendons of the lower limbs.
During the rehabilitative phase, MASS4D® customised foot orthotics can be used in conjunction with comfortable footwear; these will support the foot and the whole body in its correct postural form throughout the day whilst providing the corrective force required to treat any underlying biomechanical problems that could increase the risk of developing foot conditions.
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Repetitive plantarflexion can lead to pain and mechanical limitation in the posterior ankle joint which is known as posterior ankle impingement syndrome. This pathology commonly occurs in ballet dancers and football players.