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Eight tips for keeping your feet happy this summer

By Dr. Daren Benson

Are your feet and footwear ready for summer? Foot injuries and infections can put a damper on fair-weather fun. Check out the tips below to keep your feet healthy and happy all season long.

Tip 1: Avoid flip-flops.
Sure they may be easy, but flip-flops lack arch support and strain the ligaments and tissues in the foot. Wearing unsupportive sandals can lead to plantar fasciitis, a bruising-like pain on the bottom of the heel. This common condition can take up to a year to resolve, which can really interrupt your plans. To keep your feet cool and comfortable, invest in high-quality sandals with good arch support.

Tip 2: Stretch before activities.
Achilles tendon ruptures and ankle sprains are common among the weekend warrior crowd. Before you lay it all out on the field, take some time to get your body back into shape. And make sure to stretch the calves and lower extremities before being active. A good solid brace can prevent ankle re-injuries.

Tip 3: Invest in shower shoes.
Campsite showers, pool showers, and gym locker rooms all have one thing in common: floors that are prone to hosting bacteria, viruses, and fungal organisms. With so many people coming through these facilities, at least a few of them are bound to have a contagious condition. All it takes is skin-to-floor contact to pick up athlete’s foot or plantar warts. Shower shoes protect your feet from touching these floors. If you do pick up an athlete’s foot infection, it’s best to treat it aggressively to avoid a fungal infection in the toenails, which can be difficult to cure.

Tip 4: BYO pedi tools.
Nail salons that don’t properly sanitize tools can put your feet at risk of a fungal infection. Pass on the common instruments and pick a salon where you can purchase, clean, and reuse your own. It’s a safer way to achieve pretty feet.

Tip 5: Choose the right shoes for the activity.
If you’re a hiker, look for thick-soled, close-toed boots, and be sure to break them in before your first adventure. Shoes can rub in surprising places. When you do head out on the trail, pack blister creams, moleskin pads, bandages, and extra socks, so you don’t have to limp back from the wilderness. If you’re a runner, exercise caution with ultra-flexible shoes. They aren’t designed to be worn for long periods of time or on asphalt or concrete, and using them can lead to ligament strains and stress fractures. Most runners do best with stiff soles.

Tip 6: Avoid foot stink with socks and powders.
The good news is that foot odors aren’t dangerous, just annoying. If you feel like you can’t get a handle on the smell, try using a foot powder to absorb excess moisture. Socks also make a dramatic difference, and antiperspirants can be sprayed directly on the feet. However, if your feet are always stinky after wearing a particular pair of shoes, it might be time to replace them.

Tip 7: Let kids be kids.
It’s just fine for kids to run around barefoot if they want to, so long as you believe the environment is safe. However, if a child or adult receives a puncture wound from glass, a nail, or any other object, it’s important to get it evaluated by a physician. These wounds can be more serious than they appear.

Tip 8: Take care of diabetic feet.
If you’re a diabetic suffering from neuropathy, you already know that you have to take special precautions with your feet, like checking them every night for injuries. In the summer, it’s important to continue to wear close-toed shoes to prevent injuries that you can’t feel. Beaches, pool decks, and concrete pose particular threats because they can be hotter than you think.

If you have more questions about taking care of your feet this summer, be sure to talk to your primary care provider or podiatrist.

Dr. Daren Benson, is a Podiatrist, Foot & Ankle Surgeon at Vancouver Clinic.