Which would you rather say to your podiatrist?
“I got this monumental ankle sprain when I was pushing my lawnmower and rolled my foot in a gopher hole.”
“I got this monumental ankle sprain when I rolled my foot AFTER THE MOST SPECTACULAR JUMP SHOT EVER!”
If you picked “gopher hole”, you’re in the minority.
Landscaping – and even gardening – cause their share of foot and ankle injuries, especially in spring when we’re out of shape. We tend to jump right in where we left off in October, and our bodies just aren’t up to it. Bending, twisting, and lifting or pushing heavy and sharp equipment can cause an injury quite quickly if you don’t take a few precautions.
Wear proper footwear.
It may have been fine when you were a teenager to wear worn-out sneakers when you cut the lawn. As an adult, you should wear athletic shoes which support your feet well and will protect them if you step on a rock you didn’t expect to be there. Or in the groundhog hole which magically appeared overnight.
If your ankles or feet have been subject to injuries in the past, or if you’re landscaping with sharp equipment, wear a quality pair of work boots (not garden boots, which offer little protection beyond moisture). If you’re a landscaper, work boots with good support and metal-tipped toes should always be on your feet. Work boots will also protect your feet in the event you accidentally drop any equipment with sharp blades or heavy bottoms (like a tamper).
Don’t work on a wet lawn.
When grass is even a little wet, it can be very slippery. If you have a slope or hill on your lawn, cutting it when wet can be especially dangerous. Wait to mow your lawn until the turf is completely dry.
Use equipment with safety shutoffs.
Decades ago, equipment with sharp blades only stopped turning when you intentionally shut it off, which allowed chainsaws to run out of control, and feet to slide under lawnmowers while the blades were still turning. Fortunately, most modern lawnmowers, edgers, tillers, cultivators, post hole diggers, chain saws, and other equipment with high speed, rotating blades or teeth, stop as soon as you let go of the handle or trigger. If you’re still using decades-old equipment which doesn’t have a shutoff feature, it’s time to upgrade.
Shovels and other step-on equipment can cause surprising damage to your feet.
If you’re doing a project that requires a lot of digging, or using equipment like manual aerators for your lawn, wear quality work boots at all times. The repeated stepping-on-with-force required with these tools can cause injuries like sesamoiditis, plantar fasciitis, sprains and fractures.
If you have ankle, foot, leg, or back issues, stretch before you start.
In gardening and landscaping, lots of bending, squatting, twisting and turning is required, sometimes while holding or moving heavy equipment. Injuries happen remarkably quickly when your body isn’t prepared for them. We recommend that those who have previous injuries of the back, hip, legs, feet, or ankles, or are over 50, stretch before they begin their activities.
Taking these precautions and wearing work boots when you garden or landscape may not make you look like the coolest guy or girl on the block, but they’ll keep you out of the podiatrist’s office. Or the ER.