Foot and Ankle Injuries in Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is a physically demanding sport that can put a lot of strain on the feet and ankles. Injuries to these areas are common, and they can range from mild to severe. The most common injuries are tendonitis, stress fractures, and ankle sprains.

Some comments regarding rock climbing shoes

One piece of gear that is essential for rock climbing is a good pair of climbing shoes. These shoes often have a snug fit and specialized rubber soles to provide traction on the small footholds found on rocks. They also typically feature a curved shape to the toes, known as a “down-turn,” which helps with downward pressures while climbing. However, it’s important to remember that these shoes can also cause discomfort and even injury if not used properly. It’s important to gradually break in your shoes and avoid over-tightening them, as this can lead to foot and toe pain. In addition, incorrect sizing or use can also lead to strains in the ankles or Achilles tendons. Overall, while climbing shoes can be helpful in certain situations, it’s important to carefully consider fit and usage to prevent injury.

As a climbing athlete, it is not uncommon to hear of climbers wearing shoes several sizes smaller than what they would normally wear on the street. This tighter fit helps improve performance by providing a better grip and control on small holds, but it may also increase the risk of pain or injury. Despite this, many climbers are willing to sacrifice comfort for improved performance. It is important for climbers to properly fit and break in their shoes before trying to size down, as improper fitting can result in serious foot injuries. Additionally, regular stretching and resting periods can help prevent potential pain and injuries associated with wearing tighter climbing shoes. Ultimately, the decision to size down should be carefully weighed by considering both performance benefits and potential risks.

Subungual Hematomas

For many people, rock climbing is a fun and exhilarating way to get some exercise. But what happens when you come down from the climb with more than just a sense of accomplishment? Injuries to the toenails are not uncommon in rock climbers and can range from minor to serious

If you have an acute subungual hematoma, meaning it just happened and is not chronic, you can treat it at home with some simple first aid. If it remains painful and is worsening, you should see your doctor. Typically, in the acute setting, the blood can be drained which is trapped beneath the toenail. This will lead to almost instantaneous relief. Depending on the extent of the injury, your doctor will decide whether the entire toenail needs to be removed to relieve the pressure and/or infection (if present).

If you have a chronic subungual hematoma, meaning it’s been recurring or is slow to heal, you may need to see a doctor for treatment. Because the blood underneath the toenail is coagulated and dried, a puncture into the toenail itself will accomplish nothing because the blood is trapped, firm, and will not flow. If there is an infection present, surgery may be recommended to remove the damaged portion of the nail. Surgery is typically only recommended for severe cases that do not respond to other treatment methods.

In most cases, subungual hematomas are easily treated and pose no serious threat to your health.

Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, is a common and often uncomfortable condition that can occur due to injuries sustained during rock climbing. Some factors that increase the risk of developing fungal infections include repeated trauma to the toes, damp environments, and wearing tight-fitting shoes or socks. There are various treatment options available, including topical antifungal medications, oral antifungal medications, and laser therapy. It is important to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent the spread of infection and alleviate any discomfort. Rock climbers should also take measures to prevent toe injuries and keep their feet dry to decrease their chances of developing fungal infections.

Toenail fungus can be challenging to treat, especially if chronic. We have found that a multimodal approach is more effective than relying on only a single treatment option (like just a topical medication).

Great toe injuries

Rock climbing is a demanding physical activity, requiring a strong grip and balance. However, researchers have observed an increased incidence of hallux rigidus in rock climbers, a condition marked by stiffness and pain in the big toe joint. This is likely due to repetitive axial loading – the use of the big toe for balancing and pushing off during climbs. In severe cases, surgery such as fusion or cheilectomy may be necessary to alleviate symptoms. While this risk should not discourage individuals from participating in rock climbing, it highlights the importance of proper warmup and injury prevention measures. Climbers can also consider mixing up their routines to decrease repetitive motions and avoid overworking specific joints. Overall, taking precautions can help prevent the development of hallux rigidus and ensure a safe and enjoyable rock climbing experience.

Major trauma

When it comes to injury of the foot and ankle, major trauma should not be taken lightly. Lisfranc injuries, which involve the bones and ligaments in the midfoot, often require surgical repair and can lead to long-term complications if not treated immediately. Achilles tendon ruptures also require prompt medical attention and possible surgery to prevent future problems with walking or running. Calcaneal fractures, or heel bone fractures, can be extremely painful and may affect a person’s ability to bear weight on that foot. In all cases, it is important to seek medical care as soon as possible to ensure proper diagnosis and management.

Ankle Sprains

Bouldering is a popular form of rock climbing that involves traversing low-height walls without the use of ropes or harnesses. However, it can also be a risky activity if safety precautions are not taken, with ankle sprains being a common injury. One potential cause for this type of injury is improper placement of mats, which are used as a cushion in case of falls. When placed incorrectly, these mats can shift during a fall and leave the climber vulnerable to twisting their ankle. Climbers need to ensure that all mats are securely placed before attempting any bouldering routes. In addition, proper warm-up exercises and stretching can help to prevent muscle strains and increase overall stability while climbing. Taking these steps can greatly reduce the risk of ankle sprains and other injuries from bouldering.

Stress Fractures

These occur when repetitive stress on the bone exceeds its ability to repair itself, leading to small cracks in the bone. Climbing requires repeated impacts and gripping motions that can put stress on certain bones, particularly in the feet and hands. As such, climbers are at risk of developing stress fractures. To heal and prevent re-injury, it is important to rest and immobilize the affected area. In some cases, surgery may also be necessary to fix the fracture properly. It’s also important for climbers to have adequate levels of vitamin D for optimum bone healing. Regularly checking vitamin D levels can help ensure your bones are fully prepared for the rigors of climbing. With proper rest, immobilization, and nutrient support, a stress fracture does not have to sideline a climber for long. Stay safe out there!

Foot and ankle injuries are common in rock climbing due to the demands placed on these areas during this physically demanding sport. The most common injuries are tendonitis, stress fractures, and ankle sprains. Treatment typically involves rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication for mild cases; however, severe cases may require surgery or physical therapy. Climbers can help prevent these injuries by warming up properly before climbs and listening to their bodies for signs of wear and tear.