The now super famous (and infamous) Pokémon Go app was released to the public on July 17th and it’s going to be a great thing for podiatrists…. though not really for their patients.
For those who don’t know, Pokémon Go is a free downloadable app for iPhone and android devices that brings hunting for Pokémon to the real world around you. Users are encouraged to go outside and walk their neighborhoods and cities to find Pokémon, pokestops (areas of interest around the city, usually pieces of art), and meet other Pokémon players. The theory behind this game is brilliant (and I must admit, the game itself is fun). Never before has a video game encouraged its users to be so active and social. However, with special incubators that hatch Pokémon eggs only after you walk certain distances (either 2km or 5km), millions of people who are used to a sedentary gaming lifestyle are suddenly getting up and walking around. And this means big changes for their feet.
We have talked in the past about protecting our feet while we exercise and slowly ramping up levels of activity, but let’s take another look at a few key things that may affect all you Pokémon Go players out there who are suddenly getting active:
- Stress fractures
This is a real concern for gamers who may not be used to heavy exercise or may underestimate the distances they are going and the impact on their feet. First of all, we need to make sure that everyone is wearing proper footwear for exercise, and no, that does not mean flip-flops. Increasing the daily impact on your feet through walking increases stress on our bones. As we discussed in March, a stress fracture is a small crack in a bone due to overuse or repetitive strain. This can easily happen to those walking long distances in bad shoes. The time it takes to lace up a pair of tennis shoes is about 30 seconds; the time it takes to recover from a stress fracture (and lose out on all that walking and Pokémon collection in the meantime) is several weeks to months depending on the severity. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the 30 seconds to tie my shoes.
- Fungal Infection
For those gamers who were intuitive enough to put on athletic shoes before venturing out, you have a different set of worries than our flip-flop users. You need to worry about foot cleanliness and fungal infections. Fungus likes to grow in warm, moist, and dark places, and all three of those conditions exist inside your shoes. In order to avoid lovely conditions such as athletes foot, I would recommend avoiding excess sweating inside your shoes (using a product like Bromi-lotion may help), changing your socks immediately after they get sweaty, and airing out or even disinfecting your shoes on a regular basis. Changing a key factor of your health, such as walking additional distances every day to catch Pokémon, can greatly impact your feet and their health. Be sure to wash your feet thoroughly and maintain appropriate cleanliness for your shoes. It may save a trip to the podiatrist.
Perhaps the biggest complaint so far concerning the Pokémon Go game is that it takes our eyes off of our environment and onto our phonescreen. This creates a whole new set of concerns when it comes to our feet. YouTube videos are popping up all over the place of Pokémon Go users falling down stairs and running into poles. While these can be funny to watch, those gamers may be doing serious damage to their feet. Every time our foot twists in the wrong way or our toes stub hard against something, we are risking major damage to our feet. If you are walking through the local park and only looking at your phone screen, you can easily step into a hole and twist your ankle or even break a bone. The app alerts you each time you start it up to remain aware of your surroundings, but reports have shown that gamers ignore these warnings and that is how they get into trouble with their feet.
Overall, I support the Pokémon Go app for the major shift it is causing in gaming culture, but I sure hope at least one gamer reads this article and thinks twice about their foot health before venturing out to catch their latest Pokémon. Only time will tell if gamers heed my warning.