Summer may be a time to feel ‘footloose and fancy-free’ but it’s not the time to forget about your feet.
“Flip-flops – although the style right now, have no arch support of any kind. If worn for any prolonged period of time, they can cause severe arch pain or pain on the ball of the foot,” warned James Mahoney, D.P.M., FACFAS, associate professor of podiatric medicine at Des Moines University.
He said manufacturers are starting to add some arch raise to flip-flops but even with an arch, they offer no stability for the foot. This means the foot will move when walking, especially at the end of gait when coming off the toes, instead of remaining stable. As a result, blisters or pain on the ball of the foot can develop. Ballet-style flats are just as bad, he added, because they also have inadequate foot support.
Flimsy shoe support shouldn’t 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, Dr. Mahoney said you should take time to expose your feet, without socks, to the air more often if you are in shoes and socks all day. Nylons are an especially potent breeding ground for fungal infections. If you are prone to sweaty feet, you are also more prone to fungal infections. Have two or three different pairs of shoes that you rotate through. After wearing them, spray them with a foot deodorant, which will also dry them out, and stuff them with a paper towel until you wear them again. This will absorb moisture and the subsequent bacteria and fungus that will form.
If you have an infection, soaking your feet regularly in cold water with epsom salts and applying over-the-counter Lamisil® cream are good treatment options. Wearing leather sandals, not flip-flops is also a good idea.
Dr. Mahoney said, “It is well known that an athlete’s foot fungal skin infection can be acquired from communal showers at pools, but did you know that the pH of chlorinated pools also favors the growth of the virus that causes warts?”
Warts can be very difficult to treat on the foot. Try Mediplast® acid patches covered with duct tape daily as an initial home remedy.
Also a physician in the DMU Foot and Ankle Institute, Dr. Mahoney sees puncture wounds when patients accidentally step on sharp objects. He said, “I know going barefoot in the summer is only natural. I may be overly paranoid, but having struggled mightily at times to remove foreign objects from the feet of frightened children and adults, I don’t recommend going barefoot outside the home.”
He said if you do step on something, it’s important to figure out what it was. 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 and gauze. Cleaning thoroughly is especially important if you step on something in a lake, stream or river or on a farm. If you feel like the object is still lodged in your foot, call your podiatric physician.
“The risk of getting a piece of glass or wood piece in your foot is not worth the benefits of barefoot comfort,” he added.
Last but not least, Dr. Mahoney said it is important to remember your feet when applying sunscreen. If your feet are exposed outdoors, they will get burned.
Learn more about the DMU Foot and Ankle Institute.