Relaxing on the beach, hiking through the mountains, trekking around a new city, or just keeping up with all the kids’ summer activities—however you spend summer vacation, your feet will carry you through it all. During the course of these adventures, your feet may endure stubbed toes, miles of walking, hot sand, and possibly even some sunburn. So be kind to your tootsies, and take note of these tips for protecting your feet from summer heat.
Foot care on the road
You may be looking forward to a beach vacation or lounging by the pool at a luxury hotel. But even those fun activities can take a toll on your feet if you don’t practice proper safety.
“Even if you're just lying still on your back soaking up the sun’s rays, your feet are still vulnerable,” says Steven Gordon, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston Foot and Ankle Center and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “You can seriously sunburn your feet. And no matter how upscale your hotel is, athlete’s foot can be present in all public pool areas.”
To help steer clear of foot problems, follow these tips:
- Walk barefoot as little as possible. Going shoeless exposes your feet to sunburn, plantar warts, athlete’s foot, ringworm, and other infections, and increases the risk of injury. Wear shoes or flip-flops around the pool, to the beach, in locker rooms, and even inside your hotel room, as infection-causing bacteria can linger in carpets and on bathroom tiles.
- Just as you rely on sunscreen and drinking plenty of water during the summer, these practices also help your feet. Apply sunscreen on your whole foot, especially the tops and fronts of ankles. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help minimize foot swelling caused by the heat.
- Always pack an extra pair of shoes, especially if you expect your feet will get wet.
- Take along a foot-care kit that includes sterile bandages, antibiotic cream, an emollient-enriched cream, blister pads, and an anti-inflammatory pain-reliever.
- Avoid a flip-flop fiasco. Ditching heavy boots and wearing lighter footwear is one of the great joys of summer. But be aware that not all types of footwear are good for your feet. Flip-flops, in particular, can cause problems.
“During warmer months, many podiatrists treat more foot problems, and they can often be traced back to the wearing of flip-flops,” Dr. Gordon says. “You don’t have to give up wearing flip-flops altogether; certain types offer a superior amount of stability and support than others.”
So, what's considered a bad flip-flop? Flip-flops with soles that bend and twist freely offer no support or stability. Choose flip-flops that bend only at the ball of the foot and that provide arch support, which cushions the foot and provides stability. High-quality soft leather for the thong part of the flip-flop will help you avoid blisters. Your toes or heels should never hang off the edge of the flip-flop. Throw away flip-flops that are old, worn, cracked, or frayed—no matter how much you loved them last season.
Finally, never wear flip-flops for doing yard work, playing sports, or taking long walks. Do wear good, supportive flip-flips at the pool, beach, or in public places. Your feet will take you to a lot of cool places this summer. Keeping them safe and comfortable can maximize the fun during your next warm-weather adventure.
Steven Gordon, DPM, is a podiatrist at Reston Foot and Ankle Center 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.