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How To Take Care Of Your Feet's Health As A Pilates Practitioner

Our feet are one of our most underappreciated and neglected body parts. They carry us around all day and allow us to walk, run, and work out, yet we often take them for granted.

Like in life, our feet are our foundation in Pilates, especially reformer exercises. Through footwork, we mobilise the ankle, knee and hip joints, stabilise the spine, and cultivate a feeling of groundedness.

In a movement practice where feet are so important, taking care of their condition is key. Whether you've yet to attend your first pilates class or have been practising for a while, common foot health problems and how to prevent them will ensure you enjoy a fulfilling and progressive practice.

What Common Foot Health Problems Does Pilates Cause?

Let's explore what foot problems you are most likely to encounter in Pilates class and, most importantly, how to keep your tootsies in top condition.

1. Foul Smell

Bad-smelling feet are a common complaint among Pilates practitioners. While it may seem more of an annoyance than a health concern, bad-smelling feet often come hand in hand with poor hygiene and, thus, can lead to more severe issues.

Poor foot hygiene can spread bacteria (if you are barefoot), potentially leading to infections for the whole class. However, wearing non-sports socks could also cause infection. This is because they retain moisture, creating a damp environment that promotes bacteria or fungal growth.

How To Prevent Foul Smelling Feet In Pilates

Luckily, four-smelling feet are easily prevented by showering before class and wearing fresh socks in every session. Ensure you choose grip socks designed explicitly for Pilates instead of everyday socks, though. Pilates socks are made from moisture-wicking fabric that quickly dries up any sweat before it has the chance to become a harbouring ground for bacteria and fungus.

2. Blisters, Calluses & Bunions

Blisters, calluses and bunions are common foot issues in Pilates that can cause great discomfort and negatively affect your performance. Blisters, calluses and bunions typically result from friction and rubbing between your feet and fabric, which causes clear fluid to build up in the upper layers of skin.

How To Prevent Blisters, Calluses & Bunions In Pilates

Choosing well-designed functional Pilates socks significantly reduces or eliminates the chance of getting blisters, calluses and bunions. Choose Pilates socks with thick cushioning on the sole, as this greatly improves comfort and reduces rubbing, friction, and pressure.

If you are particularly prone to toe blisters, opt for the Just Flow toe grip socks. The five-toe design separates and spreads your tootsies to eliminate rubbing and, thus, the potential for blisters.

3. Cramping

Foot cramps are common in all types of exercise, including Pilates. While cramps are not a severe or long-lasting issue, if you've ever had one, you'll know just how painful they can be in the moment.

Usually, when you get a foot cramp during Pilates class, you have to "sit out" the next few moves until the pain subsides. This disrupts your practice and may cause you to miss your favourite exercise.

The exact cause of cramps is unknown, but medical professionals believe it could be due to mineral and electrolyte imbalances, poor circulation, incorrect technique, or fatigue.

How To Prevent Foot Cramps In Pilates

If you find your feet cramping regularly during Pilates class, try increasing your hydration, add electrolytes to your water, and introduce more magnesium and potassium in your diet. Bananas are a top source of these minerals, so many athletes and gym-goers eat a banana before or after a workout.

Another thing you can do to prevent cramping is to ensure your pilates socks are not so tight that they restrict blood circulation to your feet. Just Flow grip socks are one-size-fits-all thanks to their high elasticity, allowing for a snug but comfortable fit.

Finally, stretching your feet before and after practice could help keep cramping at bay. Simply lift and spread your toes, then curl them over the foot bar. Alternate between these two movements at least five times. Toe grips socks also help to stretch and strengthen the toe muscles, reducing the occurrence of foot cramps.

4. Bruises

Bruises are common in reformer pilates, caused by the feet and ankles hitting the rigid bars. This is likely to happen when you first start reformers, as you are learning the correct form for the exercises and getting used to exercising on a machine. With practice, the occurrence of bruising should reduce, though.

Still, some people bruise more easily than others. Bruising easily can be due to weakness in the blood vessels or caused by taking certain medications. Older people also bruise easily as their skin is thinner and lacks a protective fatty layer.

How To Prevent Foot Bruising In Pilates

If you are coming home from reformers class with a fresh bruise each time, we recommend giving your feet and ankles an extra layer of protection. The best way to do this is by wearing long Pilates socks that provide full coverage. Along with a mid-calf length, choose grip socks with full cushioned soles and ribbed ankle grips like our Motion Grip Socks.

Stretching and strengthening the soles can also help prevent bruising to the sensitive skin here. One of the best foot exercises for this is to massage the soles over a tennis ball. In a seated position, place the ball in the middle of the sole and roll it up and down the bottom of your foot.

5. Sprained Ankles

Sprains, in general, are one of the most common injuries in Pilates. However, sprained ankles are particularly prevalent as they can happen due to several things, such as:

  • Lack of stability or balance, causing you to slip and fall.
  • Poor alignment or form, such as not distributing your body weight evenly in your feet.
  • Weak foot and ankle muscles, including the 'flat feet' condition where the arches collapse
  • Tight muscles & lack of foot mobility - this hinders your foot's ability and absorbs the shock of impact on a fall.

​​Ankle sprains typically happen when the ankle rolls inwards, causing the ligaments on the outside of the ankle joint to overstretch and, in some cases, tear.

How To Prevent Sprained Ankles In Pilates

As sprains can occur for a number of reasons, there are multiple things you should focus on to take care of your feet and ankles.

Firstly, ensure you fully understand the alignment of all pilates moves, especially standing exercises. All your joints should be stacked on top of each other with equal weight between all four corners of the feet. If you need more clarification, ask your Pilates instructor or check out this video on the correct Pilates standing alignment.

Keeping your muscles engaged will further help to prevent slips and falls. Energetically lift your kneecaps to engage your upper legs and suck your belly button to your spine to activate the core muscles.

You should also include foot stretching and strengthening exercises in your Pilates routine.

Lastly, wearing Pilates socks with grippy soles will significantly increase traction and improve your stability and balance on the mat and the reformer's machine. Choosing a design with ribbed ankles like our FLOW Grip Socks will give additional support and protection to the delicate ligaments around the ankle joints.

Final Thoughts

Although Pilates is a full-body workout, our feet provide the foundation for building strength and flexibility in the rest of our body. The easiest way to improve foot health is to wear Pilates grip socks and avoid practising barefoot. The PVC grippy pads on Pilates socks keep you stable and balanced, provide additional comfort and protection, and prevent your feet from picking up or harbouring bacteria in the studio.

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