Reviewed June 23, 2021 by Ashley Dikis, D.P.M., AACFAS, Clinical Department Chair, Foot and Ankle Clinic
Summer may be a time to feel ‘footloose and fancy-free’ but it is not the time to forget about your feet. Follow these tips to make sure you stay up on your feet all summer long.
1) Invest in supportive summer footwear
Your feet are the foundation of your body, and provide the support needed for movement. Without proper care, you risk pain and injury, not only in your feet, but your knees, hips, back, neck and shoulders. Choosing appropriate footwear is key in keeping your feet and body healthy.
Although flip flops and flats are a summer staple, they lack adequate arch support. If worn for a prolonged period of time, they can cause severe arch pain or pain in the ball of the foot. Insufficient arch support can place strain on tendons, ligaments, or the plantar fascia, resulting in tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, or other conditions. Excessive movement of the foot, due to lack of stability, can also result in callus or blister formation. Open-backed shoes and heels also present similar issues, as they spread the fat pad of the heel and increase the risk of skin cracking.
2) Keep your feet from overheating
Flimsy shoe support should not be your only summer foot fear, however. Fungal infections and warts are more common during the summer months, due to the increased heat and humidity of enclosed shoes.
To prevent fungal infections, take time to expose your feet often—without socks—to the air, especially if you wear shoes and socks all day. Nylons are a particularly potent breeding ground for fungal infections. Those with sweaty feet are at higher risk for developing fungal infections. Rotate between two or three different pairs of shoes to allow each pair to dry out between uses. Using an aerosol antiperspirant when wearing shoes can help to prevent bacterial and fungal growth, as well as control moisture. These types of infection often flourish in damp, dark environments, so controlling these factors is important.
3) Treat existing infections to prevent recurrence
If you have a fungal infection, soaking your feet regularly in lukewarm water with Epsom salts and applying over-the-counter Lamisil® cream are good treatment options. Wearing sandals that have thick soles and straps instead of flip-flops is also a good idea to give your feet more support and decrease risk of falls.
It is well known that a fungal skin infection (otherwise known as “athlete’s foot”) can be acquired from showers at pools, but did you know that the pH of chlorinated pools also favors the growth of the virus that causes warts? These common infections—called plantar warts—can be very difficult to treat if not addressed right away. Over-the-counter salicylic acid treatment applied daily is often a successful initial home remedy, but if you don’t see improvement, or note new growths over the course of a few weeks, then it’s time to seek out a podiatrist for evaluation. Other potential causes of small painful skin growth include a corn, callus, foreign body, or other more serious conditions. It is important to obtain the correct diagnosis to aid in selecting the optimal treatment.
4) Avoid walking barefoot
Warmer weather often leads many of us to ditch our shoes and opt for barefoot walking. In the summer months there is a rise in injuries of the foot due to puncture from sharp objects and leading to presence of a foreign body, such as splinters, nails, seashells, and others. No one wants to spend their precious summertime being treated for an infection or having to undergo a procedure to remove a foreign object from their foot. Being aware of your surroundings and diligent about avoiding going barefoot in areas of possible concern—such as wooden decks and campsites—will go a long way towards avoiding trouble.
If you do step on something, it is important to figure out what it is. If nothing is visible, don’t try to get it out on your own. Soak repeatedly in warm, soapy water and apply a topical antibiotic ointment and gauze. Cleaning thoroughly is especially important if you step on something in a lake, stream, river or on a farm. If you feel like the object is still lodged in your foot, call your podiatric physician right away.
5) Always use sunscreen
Last but not least, remember your feet when applying sunscreen—if your feet are exposed outdoors, they can get burned. The thin skin on the top of your feet is also highly susceptible to melanoma and other skin cancers, so it is important to make sure you protect it. If you do notice any abnormal looking moles or areas of skin, make an appointment with your podiatrist right away.
Our expert podiatric medicine and surgery providers at the Des Moines University Foot and Ankle Clinic can help you and your loved ones stay healthy this summer and beyond. For more information or to make an appointment, visit the DMU Clinic website or call 515-271-1731.