prevent foot and ankle problems this summerIt's June! We finally have a good dose of sun and we're ready to embrace all the pleasures of the season. To do so we need to keep our feet pain-free and in tip top shape to last us the rest of the summer. Perhaps you already have orthotics to keep your feet in balance or you've been to the office to alleviate an ingrown toenail

Here are eight great tips to ensure your feet stay safe while you take in all the Pacific Northwest has to offer. 

1. Do-It-Yourself Pedicures

It's hard to know if a nail salon is being consistent about cleaning their tools and keeping their whirlpools clean. That's why a DIY pedicure is definitely the way to go if you want to avoid the risks that salon pedicures can bring; most frequently toenail fungus. But if you still want to get your nails done professionally here are "10 Hacks for Avoiding Fungus in a Nail Salon".

2. Lather Suncreen On Your Feet

As you lather on the sunscreen, don't skip your feet. If found on the feet, malignant melanomas are usually in more advanced stages. To avoid this deadly cancer, apply sunscreen to the top, soles, and in between the toes of your feet. Make sure your sunscreen is broad-spectrum with an SPF of 30 or higher. Reapply every two hours or more often if you've been swimming. Safer sunscreen products can be found by checking out the Environmental Working Group's safer sunscreens. Be sure to perform regular examinations on your feet to check for and unusual growths. If you find one be sure to have your podiatrist or dermatologist check it out.

3. Wear Flip Flops to the Beach and Pool Only

I know it's all the rage to wear your flip flops everywhere these days. But unfortunately, flip flops can leave your feet in a heap of pain due to their total lack of support. Common problems are heel pain, sprained ankles, more rapid bunion and hammertoe formation, cracked heels, blisters, and stress fractures. So do yourself a favor, keep your flip flops for the beach and pool and wear sandals and shoes appropriate to your activity. Some great alternatives to flip flops are featured in our video "How To Choose the Right Flip Flops for Your Feet." In addition, be sure to look for sandals that provide arch support and a secure fit.

4. Avoid Going Barefoot

Although you love taking off your shoes and sandals in the summer, try as much as possible to avoid going barefoot. There are just too many hazards laying around for your feet to find. Hanging out on your neighbor's deck -- splinters; walking on the sidewalk -- glass and nails; hanging out in parks -- used syringes. If you have diabetes, stepping on anything that can penetrate your foot or cause abrasions can lead to a nasty infection and ulcers. Also, if you have had heel pain in the past, going barefoot can increase your risk of a painful flare-up. So if you have either of these conditions wearing shoes at all times is a must for you. Learn more in our blog, "Hazards of Going Barefoot in Summer".

5. Choose the Right Shoes for Your Activity

You wouldn't wear flip-flops to play tennis because you know you'd lose the game. Different activities place unique demands on your feet. That's why choosing the right shoe for your activity is important to prevent foot and ankle problems.

Even the same activity done in a more advanced way can require different footwear. Take hiking for example. You'll need a different shoe or boot depending on the type of trail you choose.  If the trails are fairly easy without a lot of rocks and tree roots try a light trail shoe. Planning to scramble and walk through a stream or two? Choose a boot that's heavy-duty to provide the support you'll need. Learn more about choosing hiking boots by downloading our eBook, "How to Buy Hiking Boots to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis."

For an activity like running, your foot type and your running style can dictate the type of shoe you should buy. That's why it's critical to go to a store that is familiar with your particular sport and can give the right advice. Learn more in our blog, "How to Buy the Best Running Shoes for your Feet".

6. Remedies for Your Sweaty and Stinky Feet

Our feet sweat and stink more in the summer. Several things can really help.

  • Start by preventing the sweat and stink to begin with by boiling up some black tea, let it cool, and soak your feet for 30 minutes. The tannins in the tea can decrease sweat production. Do this on a daily basis.

  • Wear socks that wick away moisture. Look for fibers that do this best including Merlino wool, polypropylene, or polyethylene.

  • Use an ultraviolet shoe sanitizer such as Pedifix Shoe Zap to kill almost all of the bacteria and fungus that cause shoes to smell.

For a thorough review of all the tools you need to fight sweaty, stinky feet check out our blog, "9 Sure Fire Ways to Prevent and Treat Your Smelly Feet".

7. Dry, Cracked Heels       

With backless-sandal wear come dry and cracked heels. Of course, you can also experience dry and cracked heels for other reasons including aging and diabetes.

8. Take Off Your Shoes and Sandals At the Door

We bring in all kinds of muck from outside that's filled with bacteria and fungus. The healthiest thing to do is to take off your shoes or sandals at the door. Put on shoes, sandals, or slippers that never leave the house. It's also best to wash off your hands right afterward to prevent spreading germs around your house.

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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