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After a winter that seemed to never end, summer is quickly approaching. As the sweaters and coats get packed away, out come the flipflops and sandals. Before you don your beachwear, take a few precautions to keep from ruining your summertime fun.
Your feet have become accustomed to closed toed shoes over the winter. As a result, the skin may be unaccustomed to the rubbing in various places on the foot. Even if your sandals are veterans of several summers, ease into your shoes at home so that the skin can toughen in key areas such as along the outside of the forefoot, in between the first and second toes, and on top of the toes. It usually takes no more than a week to avoid the painful blisters that sometimes come with a sudden change to flipflops. Begin with one or two hours of use and increase it by thirty minutes a day until you are able to tolerate six or more hours with the new shoes.
Closed shoes like tennis shoes and most pumps retain moisture from sweat. Exposure to sand, salt, and air can dry the skin much more. Thickening and cracking of the skin can occur around the heels and in the “ball” of the foot. If these become painful and begin to seep or bleed, applying a small amount of superglue (assuming that you are not sensitive to the cyanoacrylate in the superglue) can help stabilize the skin so that it heals quicker.
Shoes in the summer are very different from the heavier shoes in the winter. The more flexible sole results in more stress to certain areas of the foot. Metatarsalgia, a painful swelling of the joints near the toes, may develop with an abrupt change in shoes. Arthritis in the big toe and in the joints along the arch, as well as plantar fasciitis, the most common cause of heel pain, is also easy to aggravate with a switch to more flexible shoes. Dansko, Birkenstock, Merrill, and Abeo have shoes that have a firm supportive sole that protects the important structures that transfer weight from the forefoot to the heel. Transitioning gradually to your ideal summertime shoe (or lack of shoe) is key. Drastic changes in the way that you use your feet are most likely to cause overuse injuries.
Finally, liberally apply sunscreen to the tops and bottoms of your and your children’s feet when you are out. The bottoms of the feet can be exposed to the sun when lying face down on a blanket or when crossing your legs while waiting for the burgers to come off the grill. Thirty minutes prior to going out, take the shoes off and applying a high-SPF (30 or greater) cream on the feet to ensure complete application and reapply every two hours. A sunburn on these areas can be exquisitely painful and can ruin an otherwise wonderful day at the amusement park, beach, or ballgame.
Enjoy the summer!
–Brett Fink, MD. Co-author of The Whole Foot Book: A Comprehensive Guide to Taking Care of your Feet
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