Don’t flip or flop over your summer shoes
Enjoying the footloose and fancy free days of summer? If so, it’s important to know how to protect your lower limbs in the heat.
“In summer there’s more likelihood for foot problems that may be ignored in the cooler months,” said Arthur G. Kalil, Jr., DPM, a podiatry specialist in Sandwich and South Yarmouth, who is affiliated with Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital. “Often those problems arise from our increased activity, participation in summer sports, wearing light-weight shoes, from infections caused by cuts, blisters, bites and fungus. ”
When people wear sandals and light-weight shoes to cool off their feet, they have less support than when they wearing sturdier shoes.
“As a result they have more difficulty retaining their balance and are more likely to trip or fall,” said Dr. Kalil. “That’s why we see more tendon injuries and ankle sprains in summer.”
Flip flops are notorious for that, since they offer minimal support and do little to enhance balance, he added.
Wearing shoes with minimal support over the summer months may seem fashionable, but can stress the arch and feet and lead to plantar fasciitis, an inflammation at the base of the heel. Other injuries related to a lack of proper support are:
- Achilles tendinitis, a tear or strain in a tendon stretching from the calf muscle to the heel
- Posterior tibial tendinitis, a tendon injury from the back of the calf muscles affecting bones on the inside of the foot
- Tibialis anterior tendinitis, a tendon running down the front of the shin which, when injured, creates pain at the front of the ankle and into the foot.
To avoid these injuries, Dr. Kalil recommends wearing sturdier shoes and sandals.
Summer shoes and sandals can create other problems as well. Light-weight shoes increase the tendency to roll our feet as we walk.
“If the gait is off, the toenails can be irritated, especially those that are ingrown,” said Dr. Kalil. Ingrown toenails are often hereditary or come from cutting them improperly. Irritation, perspiration and the tendency to get dirt in them increases chances for infection.
Another complaint that brings patients who wear open-toed shoes to Dr. Kalil’s office in summer are cuts, bug bites and ticks.
“Sometimes patients don’t even know they have a cut or have been bitten until they notice redness or feel pain,” he said. “Occasionally too, we’ve discovered a tick between their toes.”
Ironically, the intense heat of summer can even present problems for those who avoid open-toe shoes. One of the most common seasonal ailments is a fungal infection, the growth of yeasts provoked by unchecked moisture between the toes. Often it’s the result of failing to wipe between the toes or from perspiration in socks and shoes. The infection initially looks like dry peeling skin until a red spot appears or the foot or leg become swollen. The best way to avoid fungal infections is to dry between the toes after bathing and wear different shoes, sneakers and socks every day.
“We see a lot of swollen legs and feet from other summer heat problems too,” said Dr. Kalil.
As the body attempts to keep cool, it sends blood to the extremities which swells the feet.
“If blood pools from sitting too long with your legs bent or from varicose veins which tend to have a sluggish flow, the feet and legs will swell,” he said. “Edema can affect people of all ages, even those in their twenties, thirties and forties.”
To remedy that, he recommends regular exercise, avoiding salty diets, and sitting or keeping knees bent for long periods of time. When feet swell from summer heat, snug shoes may also press upon toes, irritate them and create blisters.
Those who suffer from peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage from the spinal cord that connects to the rest of the body, are particularly prone to overlooking the dangers of summer heat to their lower limbs.
“Often, they don’t realize they’ve been bitten, have an infected cut or toenail because they may not feel it.” said Dr. Kalil. “ Finally though they come to us when they see a red mark on their feet or legs.”