Summer Footwear, Summer Foot Care
Always measure your feet whenever you buy sandals or shoes of any kind.
Footwear - Foot Care
During warm weather, feet are more exposed and more vulnerable to irritation and injury, says Dr. Jane Anderson, a podiatrist on the staff of Durham Regional Hospital, part of Duke University Health System. And some of these problems are caused by our choice of footwear.
"One of the most common foot problems we see in the summertime is cracking in the heels," Anderson says. "People complain of dry, cracked heels, which are normally caused by open-backed shoes such as sandals. During the summertime, you might want to alternate closed shoes with sandals."
Anderson says sport sandals, with their added support, can be a good choice in summer months, but she cautions against certain other styles.
"Avoid sandals with thongs between the toes, like a flip-flop," she says. "These can be very annoying to the skin between your toes and can cause problems with blisters, corns and calluses."
One of Anderson's strongest recommendations is to always measure your feet whenever you buy sandals or shoes of any kind. Pay special attention to the part of the shoe called the 'toe box,' making sure it's round enough and wide enough not to squeeze your toes. Narrow, pointed styles, she says, can irritate bony deformities and worsen such problems as bunions or hammertoes. A round toe box, like those found in some European brands, can be an asset in controlling pain, she says.
If you'd like to test your own shoes, simply trace your bare foot on a piece of paper, then place your shoe on the tracing. If you can see the toes on either side of the shoe, the toe box is too pointed or too narrow.
When buying sandals and other shoes for children, Anderson recommends that parents look for models that minimize slippage and maximize flexibility, in order to allow good arch development. And she recommends wearing sport-specific shoes when participating in athletic activities. Wearing footwear designed expressly for a particular sport, she says, can help prevent injuries.
Persons with diabetes need to be especially careful in the summer, says Anderson. Because of a common condition called peripheral neuropathy, or numbness in their feet, they might not notice a cut or fissure in the skin caused by stepping on a thorn, piece of glass, splinter or other foreign body.
And in the summertime, remember to take good care of hot, aching feet.
"Sometimes a nice soak in cool water with a little Epsom salts or a massage is helpful," says Anderson. "If your feet are consistently painful at the end of the day, maybe you should visit your foot health provider, a podiatrist, and determine if this is a medical problem."
For more information about feet, visit the Web site of the American Podiatric Medical Association.
This page is updated on March 22, 2013.