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Help! My Toenails are Turning Black

Are one or more of your toenails turning black? Yes. Then your shoes are too small. Specifically, your shoes are too short for court sports.

Here at Racquet Network, our expert staff are constantly astonished at the number of stubborn people who come into our store to buy new shoes because the shoes they are wearing are damaging their feet and who end up buying exactly the same size, expecting a different result.

Here is how a typical conversation with one of these customer’s goes …

Staff: “Hi there. How can I help you?”

Customer: “I need some new shoes. The shoes I have are too small. They are making my toenails turn black.”

Staff: “Oh no. That’s not good. What size are they?”

Customer: “They are size 9.”

Staff: “OK. So would you like to try on something in a size 10?”

Customer: “No. Size 10 is too big. I wear a size 9.”

Staff: “I’m sorry. I must have misunderstood. I thought you said your size 9 shoes were causing your toenails to turn black.”

Customer: “Well these ones are. But I just need a different size 9. I am always a size 9.”

It is never good when a fitting starts this way, but this is exactly the way many fittings start. The customer has a number in their head and no amount of expert advice or actual evidence will sway them. So, they end up leaving with the wrong size in spite of our best efforts to convince them otherwise.

Fathers of teen-aged daughters can be especially frustrating for our shoe experts. Some of them seem to think that their daughters are less attractive if they wear shoes that actually fit, so they buy shoes that are too small and that end up causing injuries.

This not a joke. It’s not just a story we tell. This actually happens. We have seen teenaged girls leave our store in tears because they know that the shoes their fathers are buying for them are too small and will make their toenails fall off. We have had angry fathers storm out of the store because we demonstrated to them that their daughter’s feet are a size and half bigger than they used to be.

We’re not sure why but men in general rarely seem to know their shoe size. “What size are you?” we will often ask. “Size 10,” guys will say. “What size are those?” we ask, pointing at the shoes on their feet. When we check, we usually find out they are not even close to what they thought they were wearing.

Racquet Network staff are trained to fit people for court shoes. Our staff know that court shoes have to be longer than walking-around-shoes because players have to stop suddenly and change direction. When shoes are too short for this, toes bang against the end of the shoe causing toenails to blacken and fall off.

Our staff also understand that width is important. When a player’s feet are wider than the platform of the shoes they are wearing, they are prone to specific types of injuries that can lead to arthritis later in life.

Our experts want to see all customers leave our store with shoes that fit. They don’t have any preconceived ideas about that size the customer should wear or what size the customer (or their father) might want to wear. They only thing they are concerned about is what actually fits. For that to happen, the shoe must be long enough and it must be wide enough.

At the end of the day, though, they can’t force anybody to buy the right size. So they will always have to deal with the disappointment of customers who stubbornly resist their best advice and insist on buying shoes that are too short or too narrow just because that is the size they always buy.

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Tennis Elbow Tools

Tennis Elbow Illustration
Tennis Elbow Illustration
Racquet Network’s store in southwest Calgary offers a variety of options for players suffering from tennis elbow. Visit our online Pro Shop or come in to see us a 310 Woodview Dr SW. We are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00am until 7:00pm.

Tennis Elbow Treatment Devices

Racquet Network does not treat tennis elbow nor do we claim have a cure for it. We do, however, carry a variety of treatment tools in our Calgary store that our members have recommended to us over the years. At the top of this list are hard-to-find, quality gel packs that are specifically designed for icing elbows. We also carry a variety of exercise devices that are designed to strengthen weak muscles in order to reduce the likelihood of tennis elbow recurrence.

Tennis Elbow Supports

Depending on the current state of your injury, your physiotherapist may recommend rest or continued exercise. Racquet Network carries a line of supports that are designed to reduce some of the pressure that causes tennis elbow pain.

Tennis Elbow Prevention – Racquets

Whether you shop online or come into our Calgary store, you will find that we carry a number of tennis frames and pickleball paddles that are specially designed to reduced the number of harmful vibrations reaching your elbow. Many players with recurring tennis elbow issues carry at least one such racquet in their bags at all times. Some who live with frequent tennis elbow issues choose to play only with low vibration racquets.

Tennis Elbow Prevention – Strings

In addition to low vibration racquets, Racquet Network carries Calgary’s largest selection of soft, elbow-friendly tennis and squash strings. For many players with tennis elbow, soft strings are not simply a luxury; they are a necessary investment in their health and well being.

Tennis Elbow Prevention – Dampeners

Players with a favorite racquet and/or a favorite string are often unwilling to make changes to either, even when their racquet/string choices are at the root of their tennis elbow problems. Fortunately, Racquet Network carries a variety of dampeners that can be added to any racquet to reduce the intensity of harmful vibrations.

Come into our Calgary store for a consultation or check out the TENNIS ELBOW section of our online Pro Shop. While we do not endorse any specific treatments for tennis elbow, we can provide you with many tools that our members have found to be helpful to them.

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Dealing with Common Injuries – Bursitis

Battle Creek Ice It Shoulder SystemBursitis (bur-SY-tis) is a painful condition that affects fluid sacs that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near joints. It occurs when these sacs become inflamed.

The most common locations for bursitis are shoulders, elbows and hips. However, it can also develop in knees, heels and at the bases of big toes. Bursitis often occurs near joints that perform frequent repetitive motions, such as the hitting/serving shoulder in racquet sports players.

Treatment typically involves resting the affected joint, icing it and protecting it from further trauma. In most cases, bursitis pain goes away within a few weeks with proper treatment, but recurrent flare-ups of bursitis are common.

For racquets sports players, especially tennis, squash, pickleball and badminton players who play frequently, bursitis is a common injury. If left untreated, it can also become a debilitating injury that keeps players off of the court for weeks at a time.

As a coach and player who is frequently on court for twenty or more hours per week, I can speak from personal experience regarding the consequences of leaving bursitis untreated. In my younger years while teaching and playing racquet sports, I estimate that I missed several hundred matches and lessons.

Since then, however, I have developed a very effective strategy for preventing the development of bursitis and for healing it quickly once it occurs. In fact, I now rarely miss matches or lessons due to bursitis.

My strategy is very simple. I keep a freezer full of ice packs and I use them every time I get home from playing or teaching. Specifically, I keep three shoulder packs and three general purpose rectangular ice packs in the freezer. I use the shoulder packs after every match regardless of whether I am feeling pain or not. The shoulder packs help me cool the shoulder joint down quickly and prevent inflammation from developing in the fluid sacs.

The other, rectangular ice packs I use only when I am feeling pain in a particular non-shoulder joint, such as my knee or the base of my foot. At the first sign of pain in these areas, I ice, ice, ice until the pain goes away — because this is the best way I have found to prevent inflammation from settling in and becoming a longterm problem.

Top 3 Tips for Dealing with Bursitis

Here are my Top Three Tips for players who want to treat or prevent bursitis:

1. Keep at least three ice packs in the freezer. The trick is to rotate each one 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off. A single ice pack is not enough because it takes six hours to freeze again after you use it. Having three allows you to ice for about 60 minutes after every match.

2. Large ice packs are better than small ice packs. I look for ice packs that are long, wide and thick — about twice as big as I think I need. The small ones melt too quickly and don’t provide penetrating cooling. This is especially important in the shoulder where the fluid sacks are deep in the joint below several layers of muscle. Small ice packs will cool the surface, but the cooling will not reach the joint.

3. Shoulder systems are extremely convenient because shoulders are difficult joints to ice. Using a harness system like the one in the image above allows me to ice my shoulder while moving around. In fact, I am wearing one now while I am typing this piece. If I wasn’t wearing it, this would be difficult to do.

Preventing Bursitis

Preventing bursitis is infinitely preferable to treating it. An hour of ice after every match is simple and effective but allowing it to develop and settle into your shoulder may result in weeks of ice, drugs and physiotherapy. My best advice is to avoid getting it in the first place.