Black toenails and hockey – what you can do about it!

Talk to any hockey player about their toe nails and you’ll usually find a consensus – they are black and shamefully unsightly, often covered up by women players with dark nail varnish when toes have to be exposed in sandals.

So why are toe nails often black and is there anything you can do about it?

I spoke to Dave Wain, the MD of Carnation footcare, at a recent press launch of a new foot roller product. Arlene Phillips, the choreographer, was there to talk about how to use it and why she is brand ambassador for Carnation.

As I chatted to Dave, who is also a qualified podiatrist,  I managed to turn the subject round to hockey (as usual, sometimes I get the feeling I am a hockey bore but I don’t care a jot!)  – and black hockey toenails. Bit of a niche subject it must be said, but he seemed to still be awake and actually interested as he is a keen basketball player and understands feet and sport. I wanted to know how hockey players could protect their feet.

He said the ubiquitous black toes were caused by slamming down onto the toe nail inside the shoe as you rapidly change direction. Interestingly, he said it wasn’t inevitable and there are a few things you can do to protect your toes.

He suggested wrapping Carnation animal wool round your toes. It’s a product designed to reduce friction and pressure and Arlene Phillips, the choreographer who was also at the event as the company’s brand ambassador, says she uses the stuff.

Gel toe separators can also help as can Carnation Footcare Ingrowing Toenail Protector (ignore the fact that you don’t need to treat an ingrowing toenail and instead just use it as a gel toenail protector).

Buy larger size astros if you can (not an option I want to choose as my feet are big enough as it is without buying bigger shoes) and this leaves your more room to put padding around your toes.




Hockey specific exercises

Here’s a couple of great clips from YouTube that show gym exercises that can help hone your body especially for playing hockey.

The second clip is aimed at ice-hockey players, but I gather that the exercises translate to field hockey too.

The player in the first clip makes easy meat of what, to be honest, look like pretty tough workout drills. Unfortunately, there’s no info on exactly how often you should do these and whether you should repeat them. But, from working at a fitness writer at Health & Fitness magazine, for years, it’s usually 10-12 reps during a workout session and repeat a couple of times. The general recommendation for ordinary folk, rather than high performance Olympians, is two to three strength training sessions a week.


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Indoor hockey

Update May 2015

New Introduction to Indoor classes just launched at DL Total Hockey. Click here for more info and bookings

Indoor hockey

It’s off season here in the UK. With no hockey from April to September many club players can find they haven’t had a touch on a hockey ball for months – not the best way to keep you performance as good as it could be.

Dain Lewis, a centrally contracted coach with England Hockey, who runs reckons heading indoors for your hockey is a great way to improve your skills ready for the next outdoor season.

According to Dain, The Netherlands and the German teams have high world rankings, so they should know a thing or two about how to be the best at hockey. These teams hone their hockey skills indoors because the game offers more touches on the ball, more stick discipline since you can’t raise or hit the ball and defending practice that forces you low and nimble.

Indoor, also helps you get faster footwork and more decision making since you’ll have far more touches on the ball with just five outfield players on the pitch.

“You’ll definitely improve if you take your game indoors. I can really boost your performance in the outdoor game,” says Dain, who coaches indoor hockey sessions in Norwich, in the UK.

I’ve been attending his Monday night sessions at the University of East Anglia sportspark and they are hugely enjoyable. A few of my team mates have started coming along too, although we’ve found that fellow outfield players take a little convincing about how enjoyable indoor is.

Their first reaction is to assume they wouldn’t like it in comparison. It takes them to try it and realise how many transferable skills you learn for the outdoor version, as well as how much fun it is, and they are usually hooked.

Indoor hockey moves

With only five people on the indoor pitch, passing and moving is key. The following clip at 3.25 minutes in shows a neat pass and move drill that resulted in a neat goal by the right post player. A player on the left midfield position moves it to a left baseline player who sends a tight cross to a player sitting on the right post – goal! Would be worth trying to set this up as a regular indoor set piece because here it works a treat.


Backhand, backstick, tomahawk shot. Whatever you want to call it, here’s some tips on how to do it…

I’ve just been lucky enough to travel to The Hague to watch some of the Rabobank 2014 world cup matches.

The hockey was stunning – with the highlights for me being Jamie Dwyer and the men’s Australian team and the Dutch women’s team.

It was impossible not to notice how important the backstick shot – or the tomahawk or backhand, whatever you want to call it – has become in hockey. I watched Korean v New Zealand women. Korean won by one goal to nil and the goal was created by a phenomenal backstick ball from the very top left hand corner of the pitch into the D. This was then deflected into the goal.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear what an amazing backstick shot this was from the internet film coverage that exists of the match. But I was sitting right by the left hand corner and the shot from their amazing player No 10 Park took my breath away.

We all came home (I travelled with some team members from my club) wanting to master the backstick shot. It’s a challenge if you don’t know how, but I found this fantastic video really helpful. I could do them before but wasn’t making the C-shape he suggests in the clip. Doing this made a huge difference to the power of my shot. I was also lunging too deeply. Instead, he suggests the feet should be a bit closer together.

The grass in my garden has taken a hell of a pounding as I whack them one after another at a gym mat my hockey-mad 10-year–old daughter and myself upended as a target for hitting practice.

But so far I’m pretty pleased with how it’s going and can’t wait to see if I can actually do it in a match.

The player demonstrating so well is Roel van Reenen

This is also pretty good from Phil Burrows, the New Zealand player. He recommends hitting off your left foot if you can to block the defender a bit more. He also gives some tips on why the ball is rising in the air. Follow through – the stick should finish aiming exactly where you want the ball to go. When you get better put your whole body into it to get maximum power. It’s also worth watching this video through until about five minutes in when he hits some shots from the edge of the D with a tight angle on goal. You can see exactly how he moves the ball into the correct position before taking the shot – something I’ve been struggling with because I’m having to practise on grass at the moment as it’s off season and we’re not on the astro every Saturday.

Here’s a link to a previous post I’ve written on this too…

Happy practising!