The warm summer days are upon us. As we break out the summer wardrobe and footwear, beware, there are several foot problems that we consistently see over the summer months that need some thought and planning so as not to ruin your Christmas holiday.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THONGS?
While thongs (or flip flops) are an iconic part of Australian summer, they are also responsible for considerable foot pain and injury. Unfortunately, the thin rubber sole of a thong, or any light summer sandal, does not provide our feet with the necessary support required in the heel, arch or ball of the foot. This is because there is no stability, causing the foot to move inapproriately while walking. This can lead to blisters, cramping, cracked heels, or worse, internal structural damage. The strap on the top holding the foot in place is also not sufficient, leading to clawing of toes potentially leading to toe deformities, corns and callous. Therefore, thongs should not be worn for long periods or when you are planning in doing a lot of walking. However, thongs do protect the foot from hot sand at the beach or prevent the spread of athlete's foot at the pool, so used sparingly and for appropriate activities they can keep a spot in your summer wardrobe.
PREVENT FUNGAL INFECTIONS
If you love getting your feet out in summer and enjoy the feeling of being barefoot, beware as you may also be enjoying the feeling of fungus between your toes. Unfortunately, summer always sees a rise in fungal infections of both the skin and nails, as well as plantar warts. This is because fungus and the virus responsible for plantar warts are rife in communal pool and bathing areas, especially at the beach and gyms. The increased number of people barefoot in summer in these areas also increases the risk of developing a fungal infection. To help to avoid this it is important to wear suitable footwear as much as possible, such as thongs in communal areas at the beach or pool. Also, remember to clean and dry feet regularly and thoroughly, especially between the toes to avoid tinea. If your shoes do get wet allow them to dry completely before wearing them again as fungus thrive in damp, dark places.
Going barefoot in the summer is only natural and has some benefits for short periods of time but is not recommended for outside the home. Too often, injuries occur from punctures or cuts. Always wear covered footwear outside the home or at work. If engaging in water activities, such as canoeing or kayaking, try to wear water shoes or sandals to protect your feet along rocky shorelines or river beds. If an injury has occurred, contact your podiatrist or doctor immediately.
HEAL YOUR HEELS
During the summer our heels are prone to dryness and cracking due to excessive sweating, decreased moisture in the air, open-backed shoes and no shoes at all. This can be very irritating for people and may lead to breaks in the skin and infection. There are simple ways to avoid this, including wearing enclosed shoes to prevent skin dehydration, using a heel balm to rehydrate skin and using a pumice stone in the shower to keep superficial dry skin as thin as possible. As podiatrists we can also help with removal of excess skin during your consultation and help you keep on top of what can become a difficult problem to manage.
Don't forget to apply sunscreen to the tops of your feet and toes. This area is often forgotten, however, if your feet are exposed, they will get burned and are prone to skin cancer. Also remember to re-apply sunscreen as directed or as soon as you get out of the water.
Have a great summer!