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Foot Overuse Diseases in Rock Climbing

by MASS4D® Prescription Orthotics February 25, 2018


This epidemiologic study of a large sample of climbers was conducted to assess chronic diseases of the foot and to highlight any correlations with the features of the athlete, the morphology of the foot, and the type of climbing practiced.

Between May 1 and September 30, 2009, during three main climbing meetings, the authors examined 211 rock climbers, competitive or recreational, across various specialities of climbing.

Of the general data, the authors considered age, sex, weight and height (from which the body mass index was calculated), number of shoes worn during daily life, and number of climbing shoes worn (usually the lower number): the difference in shoe number was labeled as the ‘‘shoe-size reduction’’.

Climbing shoes were divided into three types (low, medium and high) according to the degree of asymmetry of the lateral and medial sides.

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Of the morphologic characteristics of the foot, the following were examined: hindfoot alignment under static conditions (neutral, varus, or valgus), the longitudinal arch (normal, flat, or cavus), the digital formula (Egyptian, Greek, or square), and any toe deformities (hallux valgus and lesser toe deformities).

The diseases considered for statistical analysis were those found most frequently: nail disease (onychodystrophy, onychomycosis, subnail hematoma, and onychocryptosis), metatarsalgia, retrocalcaneal bursitis, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and recurrent ankle sprains.

The most frequent condition observed was nail disease, found in 65.3% of participants, followed by recurrent ankle sprains (27.8%), retrocalcaneal bursitis (19.4%), Achilles tendinitis (12.5%), metatarsalgia (12.5%), and plantar fasciitis (5.6%).

The characteristics often related to the onset of foot diseases, in general, were male sex, the use of high-type shoes (those with marked asymmetry), the high degree of climbing difficulty, and practicing climbing at a competitive level.

The authors emphasised that orthoses for climbers should have specific characteristics and, therefore, should be very thin to be compatible with the physical activity and the specific footwear required.

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  1. Buda, R., Di Caprio, F., Bedetti, L., Mosca, M., Giannini, S. (2013) Foot Overuse Diseases in Rock Climbing. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association: March/April 2013, Vol. 103, No. 2, pp. 113-120.

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