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Posts for: May, 2016

It’s easy to understand why we all love flip-flops: They’re cute and comfy, keep your feet cool in warm weather, and are great for showing off that fab pedicure you just got. But no matter how much you adore your flip-flops, they shouldn’t be all-occasion footwear. Sometimes, they can lead to sore feet or even severe injury.

“Flip-flops are hugely popular, but it’s important to remember they’re not appropriate for everyday wear or for all occasions,” says Steven Gordon, DPM, a podiatrist at Manassas, Reston, and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Centers and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “Every spring and summer, podiatric offices see an influx of patients with injuries and ailments directly related to wearing flip-flops at the wrong time or wearing the wrong flip-flops altogether.”

The secret to safely enjoying flip-flops through summer is two-fold, Dr. Gordon says. First, find the right style, and second, know when to wear flip-flops and when to wear something else.

How to choose flip-flops

Some styles of flip-flops may cause blistering and pain, and increase your risk of injury in certain situations. It is possible to find a better flip-flop. APMA offers some tips:

  • Look for high-quality, soft leather, which will minimize the risk of blisters and other skin irritations. Vinyl or rubber styles are more likely to rub your foot the wrong way. Find footwear products that have earned APMA’s Seal of Acceptance by visiting www.apma.org/seal. The seal indicates that a team of APMA podiatrists has evaluated the product to ensure it promotes normal foot function and health.
  • Choose a flip-flop with soles that bend at the ball of the foot. If you can bend the sole completely in half or wring it like a wet rag, the sole will not provide proper support.
  • The thong part of the flip-flop should fit comfortably, neither too loose nor too snug. Straps that are too tight could rub and cause blisters. Too-loose straps may result in you losing the shoe at a critical moment—resulting in injury. Consider a flip-flop with extra padding on the part of the strap that fits between your toes.
  • Your foot should fit perfectly on the sole. Your heel should not hang off the back, nor your toes off the front.
  • Dispose of worn flip-flips, no matter how much you loved them last year. Old shoes lose their ability to support and protect your feet, and it’s easy to find a new pair to replace old ones.

When to wear flip-flops

A shoe style that was once relegated to beach or poolside is now considered acceptable in a variety of settings. It’s not uncommon to see people wearing flip-flops to the mall or grocery store, when they’re out for a stroll, or even in the office. Flip-flops have even made inroads into the bridal scene, with some comfort-minded brides wearing them for their weddings and receptions.

Deciding whether wearing flip-flops is socially appropriate for the occasion is up to you, but there are some times when you should not wear them for safety reasons.

  • When doing yard work—such as mowing the lawn or working in the garden—it’s best to wear shoes that cover and protect your entire foot. Flip-flops don’t offer sufficient support or protection.
  • For long walks, opt for a good walking shoe. Even the sturdiest styles of flip-flops don’t offer sufficient arch support and shock absorption for extended walking.
  • Playing sports calls for the right footwear. Choose a shoe that is designed for the sport you’re playing. Flip-flops don’t offer adequate support or protection for hard play and may come off your foot at a crucial moment. They might lose you the game at best, and leave you with a foot or ankle injury at worst.

Finally, put away your flip-flops when the weather is bad. “This one may seem obvious,” Dr. Gordon says, “but some people continue to wear their flip-flops even when the temperature drops, rain falls, or snow is on the ground. Wearing flip-flops in bad weather puts you at risk of injury if your foot slips out of a wet shoe or even frostbite if temperatures fall too low.”

Steven Gordon, DPM, is a podiatrist at Manassas, Reston and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Centers in Reston, VA. Call (703) 437-6333 or visit www.FootVA.com to make an appointment. Visit www.apma.org to learn more about foot health and care.

 


A parent’s guide to foot health for athletic kids

Millions of American children will participate in warm weather sports this year, from softball to soccer and swimming to cycling. No matter what their sport or whether they play competitively or just for fun, they will have one important thing in common: They’ll need their feet to be pain-free if they're going to play their best and prevent injuries.

“Sports play a significant role in the lives of millions of young athletes,” says Steven Gordon, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Center and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “Parents need to be aware that sports, which require a substantial amount of running, turning, and contact, can translate to injuries. Protecting children’s feet from injuries, and bringing them to a podiatrist when problems occur, can help keep kids in the game and make the sport more enjoyable.”

APMA offers some tips for helping protect children’s feet while playing warm-weather sports:

  • Protective taping of the ankles is often necessary to help prevent sprains or fractures.
  • Buying a shoe designed for the specific sport your child plays not only improves your child’s performance in the sport, but it also can help protect him or her from serious foot and ankle injuries. APMA has given its Seal of Acceptance to select sports footwear, which offer quality materials and protective support.
  • Without the right sock, even the best athletic shoe won’t score points—on the field or off. Athletic socks should consist of a natural/synthetic blend, which is best at wicking away moisture and minimizing foot odor. Socks should not have large seams that might cause blisters or irritation. Commonly played warm-weather sports and the risks associated with them include:
  • Basketball - Children playing basketball may be at risk for ankle sprains, tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the thick band of tissue on the sole of the foot). To minimize the risk of foot injury, choose a shoe with a thick, stiff sole, high ankle support, and shock absorption.
  • Tennis - The rapid, repetitive lateral movements and shifting of weight required of tennis players can lead to injuries such as ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, and corns or calluses. Tennis players will do best with a flexible-soled shoe that supports both sides of the foot.
  • Running - Movements required of runners include leg extension and hitting the balls of the feet with a great deal of force. Running can lead to shin splints, heel pain, and blisters. A good running shoe should offer good support and shock absorption. In some cases, custom orthotics may be necessary to provide additional support and control of foot motion.
  • Soccer - The running, jumping, and lateral movements required of soccer players can lead to many foot injuries, with heel pain and shin splints being among the most common. Soccer shoes should provide multiple cleats in the heel area and enough room for thick soccer socks.

“Sports-related foot and ankle injuries are on the rise as more children participate actively in sports,” Dr. Gordon says. “Parents need to be vigilant to ensure children’s feet remain healthy and safe. And remember—lack of complaint by a child is not a reliable sign that everything is fine. The bones of growing feet are so flexible that they can be twisted and distorted without the child being aware of it.”

Ensuring your child’s feet stay healthy could go a long way—your young athlete could one day be the next LeBron James or Brandi Chastain. If your child participates in strenuous sports, monitor his or her foot health closely. If you suspect a problem, take your child to a podiatrist for evaluation and treatment.

 


Well-heeled: Tips for picking high heels that are better for your feet

Few relationships in a woman’s life are as love-hate as the one she has with her high heels. We love them because they look great and make legs appear longer and leaner, helping petite women appear taller and tall women statuesque. The hate, however, comes when the pain begins.

High heels are the No. 1 culprit of foot pain for women, according to an American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) survey. Nearly half of all women wear heels, and 71 percent of heel-wearers say those shoes hurt their feet, APMA reports.

“With many types of heels, like very high stilettos, foot pain is hard to avoid,” says Steven A. Gordon, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Center and APMA member. “But it is possible for women to find a happy mid-point between great looks and great pain.”

APMA offers some basic guidelines for choosing better-for-you heels:

  • Nearly half of heel-owners admit to wearing heels three inches or higher. That height, however, shifts body weight forward and puts great pressure on the ball of the foot and the toes. Avoid heels higher than two inches.
  • A high stiletto with a pointy, closed toe is the worst type of shoe for your feet. Instead, choose heels with a generous toe box area and extra cushioning at the front of the shoe. “A slight heel or wedge encourages your arch to lift,” Dr. Gordon adds.
  • Consider wearing supportive shoes during your commute and changing into high heels after you arrive at the office. This simple step will help minimize the time your feet spend in heels.
  • Kitten heels are a good-looking, foot-friendly option for heel wearers. With a heel height typically less than one inch, kitten heels deliver a bit of height without the pressure that higher heels can cause.
  • Be extra careful when wearing platforms or wedges, as these styles can compromise your balance and stability. Very high shoes may lead to ankle rolls and falls. Choose lower platforms and wedges that secure with ankle straps.
  • During warm weather, peep toes tempt women to show off pretty pedicures. Be aware, however, that peep toes can cause toes to slip forward or overlap, and may even push nail edges into skin, causing an ingrown toenail.
  • Review a list of podiatrist-approved women’s footwear that has earned APMA’s Seal of Acceptance at www.apma.org/seal.

Finally, even if you’re like the average American woman and own nine pairs of high heels, don’t wear them every day. Daily heel-wearing can cause the Achilles tendon (the strong tendon at the back of your ankle) to shrink, increasing your risk of an injury while doing activities in flat shoes, including exercise.

“Treat heels like dessert,” Dr. Gordon says. “Don’t wear them all the time, just on special occasions.”

If you experience persistent foot pain, see a podiatrist. Feet shouldn’t hurt all the time, and if they do, it may indicate injury, irritation, or illness.