The Importance of Stretching for Lower Limb Health in Winter Sports

Stretching in the winter

The Importance of Stretching for Lower Limb Health in Winter Sports

Winter is here and the winter sports season has well and truly begun. If you or your children take part in winter sports such as football, rugby, basketball, skiing, netball, snowboarding, or hockey, you know how thrilling it can be! However, these activities can be tough on your body, especially on your lower limbs, and result in a gamut of sports injuries ranging from shin splints to plantar fasciitis

Unfortunately, stretching is often the last thing on our minds after a gruelling rugby match or a day on the slopes. But, as our podiatrists at footinjuryclinic advise, if you want to  improve your flexibility, increase your range of motion and prevent injury, it is very important to stretch both before and after any winter sport routine.

Why should you stretch?

Remember, your legs and feet are responsible for supporting your entire body weight. Winter sports such as basketball, soccer and skiing are high-energy and fast-paced with a lot of stops and starts. This can put a lot of strain on your body. Lower limb injuries, including sprains, strains and tears are all too common. But by stretching before and after your winter sports activities, you can reduce the risk of injury and improve your performance.

Stretching helps to warm up your muscles, tendons and ligaments. It increases blood flow to your muscles, which reduces the risk of injury and improves their strength, flexibility and endurance. Stretching also helps to reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery time. After a day of intense sport, you must stretch to reduce muscle tension and soreness if you want to recover and play injury-free. You should also use foam rollers or massage balls to help release tension in your muscles as part of your stretching routine.

Scratching before exercise

Dynamic Stretches vs. Static Stretches

Before you start your chosen winter sport, you need to do Dynamic Stretches that involve movement and stretching your muscles through their full range of motion to warm up your muscles. Remember to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your dynamic stretches. These stretches are meant to warm up your muscles and prepare them for more intense activity, so don’t push yourself too hard too quickly.

Some Dynamic Stretches

  • Leg Swings: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and swing one leg forward and back like a pendulum. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides
  • Walking Lunges: Take a big step forward with one leg and bend your knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Push back up and step forward with your other leg. Repeat 10 times, alternating legs.
  • High Knees: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lift one knee towards your chest. Lower it back down and immediately lift the other knee. Continue alternating for 20 reps.
  • Jumping Jacks: Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Jump your feet out to the sides and raise your arms above your head. Jump your feet back together and lower your arms. Repeat for 20 reps.

After you finish your winter workout or sport, you need to do Static Stretches by holding a stretched position for a period of time to improve flexibility as part of a cool-down routine. Remember to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, and to breathe deeply and relax your muscles while stretching. 

Some Static Stretches

  • Hamstring Stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Reach forward and try to touch your toes, holding the stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Quad Stretch: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your right knee and bring your heel towards your buttocks. Hold your ankle with your right hand and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
  • Calf Stretch: Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Step back with one foot and press the heel of that foot into the ground, feeling a stretch in your calf. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then switch sides. Suffer from plantar fasciitis? Here are some calf stretches.
  • Butterfly Stretch: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and the soles of your feet touching. Gently press your knees towards the floor using your elbows and hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

Static Stretching

Stretching Tips to Follow

  • Warm up your body with some dynamic stretches to increase blood flow and raise your body temperature.
  • Focus on stretching the muscles that will be used the most during your sport. For example, make sure to stretch the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, hips, and ankles if you are running.
  • Don’t forget to stretch both sides of your body evenly. However, if one side of your body feels tighter than the other, go back to it to stretch it out again. 
  • Breathe deeply and slowly throughout the stretch to help relax your muscles.
  • Gradually increase the intensity of your stretches, rather than stretching too deeply too quickly.
  • If you feel any pain or discomfort, stop the stretch immediately and adjust your position.
  • Make it a habit to incorporate a stretching routine before and after participating in winter sports – your lower limbs will thank you.

If you are unsure of what stretches to perform, when and how to do them,  or if you experience any discomfort while stretching, our podiatrists are here to help. With years of experience in sports podiatry, and being athletes themselves, our podiatrists can develop a personalised stretching program tailored to suit your specific winter sport and individual needs so that you gain the maximum benefit – and minimise the risk of injury. Contact us today so that you can stay free from injury on the sports field! 

Lower Limb Stretching


Our podiatrists at footinjuryclinic can help get to the bottom of your knee problem and recommend a suitable treatment plan. Give us a call or book an appointment online here

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