How to prevent foot pain when travellingAs the summer ramps up you're looking forward to getting out of town. No matter what kind of vacation you take it will certainly entail more walking or hiking than you normally do. To prevent a whole host of foot problems, use the following guide to help you prepare successfully for your vacation. 

Give Your Shoes Road Time Before Your Trip

Although a lot of shoes and boots these days don't necessarily require break-in time, some do. It's best not to bring your new kicks on vacation no matter how pretty they are. If they're shoes you're planning to wear all day long make sure to give them some road time before you take off for your trip.

Keep in mind that shoes should not fit tightly in the shoe store. You should have at least a thumbs length of wiggle room in the toes. And be sure your heels don't slip or you'll end up with blisters.

Shop for shoes toward the end of the day when feet are most likely to swell.

Choose the Right Shoe for Your Activity

Make sure you have sturdy shoes or sandals that won't easily bend in the middle or twist easily when you try to wring them out like a rag. For a demonstration of how to test your shoes for stability watch my video.

Avoid wearing flip flops except on the beach. Wearing flip flops for long distances can lead to chronic foot pain conditions. Better sandals are those with an arch and with straps that secure your foot.

Ballet flats and other flat shoes should also be avoided except for casual wear.

Be sure to bring appropriate hiking boots for the type of terrain you plan to hike on, tennis shoes for tennis, and so on.

Choose the Right Socks

Equally important as choosing the right shoes are wearing the right socks. Avoid cotton socks and instead choose socks made with synthetic fibers or wool; these materials wick away moisture, decrease friction, prevent blistering, and reduce odor. Good examples are Yingdi Copper Socks made for men and women which contain copper fiber, a synthetic called SUPPLEX, and spandex or Darn Tough Hiking Socks made of merino wool, nylon, and spandex.

In addition, to reduce fatigue you might consider buying a support stocking. Although that might conjure up an image of granny in her rocking chair, today these socks are also used by nurses who spend long hours on their feet and athletes who want to improve their performance.

They are also very helpful if you're going to spend many hours on a plane. Support socks work by providing a mild squeezing action to support enhanced blood flow and reduce swelling. Some examples of this type of sock are Copper Compression Socks made by FuelMeFoot or the more colorful compression socks by L-lweik.

Purchase an Over-The-Counter Orthotic

To reduce the stress on your feet while travelling, it's a really good idea to purchase an over-the-counter orthotic. Many people wear sneakers for the majority of their vacation time. Supportive sneakers are great; however, the inserts that comes with them do not provide any additional support. You can purchase either Powerstep orthotics or Superfeet. These inserts are also a good prevention tool if you tend to develop mild plantar fasciitis.

Don't Forget Your Custom Orthotics

For travelers with flat feet who tend to develop moderate to severe plantar fasciitis, don't leave home without taking your orthotics with you. You'll need them more than ever as you put in the extra miles. If your orthotics are giving you pain, don't feel quite right, or are over three years old it's time to see your Seattle podiatrist for an evaluation. Orthotics that are worn down and painful won't provide proper support. If your orthotics look shabby but still feel fine, your podiatrist can refurbish them for you.

Bring a First Aid Kit for Your Feet

No matter how hard you prepare to have a safe trip and prevent your feet from hurting, it's always a good idea to pack a first aid kit for your feet. Be sure to include bandages for mintor cuts and scrapes, blister pads or surgical tape, antibiotic cream, an emery board to smooth out rough nail edges, tweezers and toenail clippers, sunscreen, and aloe vera for sunburn.

Tips for Air Travel

Airports and airplanes have their own hazards when it comes to your feet. Be sure to wear socks with your shoes or sandals so when you go through security you aren't barefoot. That way you'll avoid any fungus and bacteria where other travellers have tread.

In addition to wearing compression socks on the plane--drink plenty of water, flex your feet and toes, take several walks, and avoid crossing your legs to reduce swelling and soreness.

Tips for Sight Seeing

Having good supportive shoes are essential but so is watching where you're going. No shoe will prevent you from twisting an ankle if you slide off a curb or trip over a stone. If you're headed to the beach be sure to pack your sunscreen and lather up your feet as well as your face and arms to avoid painful burns.

Don't Ignore Foot Pain

If you're experiencing foot pain for the first time, don't leave for vacation without seeing a podiatrist. Very likely walking longer distances will just make things worse.

For some painful conditions you can initially try self-care. For example you might find relief for mild heel pain by using a frozen water bottle or Theraband Foot Roller to simultaneously ice and massage the bottom of your feet. Sometimes a heel lift will also provide relief since it effectively reduces the pull on the plantar fascial tissue that is injured. You can also try an over-the-counter orthotic as mentioned above.

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