By James Richardson.
Photography courtesy of mybaresandals.com and aviespa.ca
“How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of him that brings good news…” So the prophet Isaiah said. But whether on the mountain, on the beach, or in the flat lands of the Mid-South, our feet take a beating all year long.
Now that summer is almost here, it would be wise to take a little time to care for our often-taken-for-granted feet.
As Dr. Ami Herbstrith recommends, “We all know when our feet hurt, everything can hurt! Our feet are our foundation so it is important to take care of them.” Dr. Ami Herbstrith practices with Mid-South Foot and Ankle Specialists (MSFAS) in Memphis. She is board certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and a fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.
Summer means being outside. Whether it is playing in the water at the pool or on the beach, hiking in the mountains or riding bikes around the neighborhood, or simply sitting at a baseball game, it is easy to get caught up in the fun and often overlook the importance of protecting our feet. Summer offers a variety of activities that can cause harm to our feet. “If you have neglected your feet, now is the time to get them into shape,” said Herbstrith.
“While vacationing this summer, many of us will be hiking, biking, golfing, swimming, and going to the amusement parks. It is important when you are on your feet during these activities that you choose a good, supportive shoe. You do not want to plan a day at an amusement park wearing non-supportive flip flops or shoes. You need to wear a good supportive athletic style sandal with straps to hold your foot in place or even better, athletic shoes,” she said.
“Likewise, a day of hiking or a lot of walking on the golf course could lead to blisters. Prevent these by making sure you have tested your shoes. There are many over the counter products to help with blisters, such as silicone blister pads or moleskin. If you develop redness around the blister, infection could be a risk.”
Summer also means going barefoot to a lot of people. “Many of us kick our shoes off and go barefoot, however you should never go barefoot!” admonished Dr. Herbstrith. “Protect yourself from injury. You do not want to step on something, such as glass, a rock, nail, or even a snake! You also want to protect yourself from insect or spider bites.” She notes that all of these can be painful or even lead to infection, recommending instead a good supportive sandal. For diabetics, she suggests avoiding a ‘thong’ sandal with something between the toes. This can cause irritation and problems down the road.
“Going to the beach or the lake this summer? We all use sunscreen, however many of us forget to lather up the tops of the feet. The skin on the top of your foot is delicate and can sunburn very easily. Make sure that you apply sunscreen regularly throughout the day, just as you do the rest of your body.”
Dr. Herbstrith also recommends wearing water shoes if vacation plans include visiting a water park or a public pool “because plantar warts and athlete’s foot are both contagious, and can be spread through direct contact of a communal type surface.”
For the most part, women take care of their feet better than men and consequently visit a spa or nail salon for pedicures. If you get pedicures make sure you check into the cleanliness of the salon and sterilization of the instruments. Fungal infections on the feet and nails can spread very easily.
“All of us should take care of and monitor our feet on a regular basis. However, certain individuals should take extra care and precaution. If you are a diabetic, you should avoid the salon and should check your feet on a daily basis. Look between the toes and check the bottom of your feet. You can also feel for any rough spots which could indicate a callus or corn, or even worse, a sore. A diabetic should have a foot exam at least once a year, and certain diabetics may be at higher risk for more frequent visits.
Children can also be prone to develop foot trouble. Most young children have flat feet which is a normal growing process. However, as a child matures, complaints of pain or discomfort in the feet, ankles, or knees are not normal. “Proper shoes with good arch support is very important, and sometimes special inserts can be made to help with discomfort,” said Dr. Herbstrith.
With summer fast approaching, taking a little extra care of our feet can make time in the sun more fun and less problematic. Checking your feet on a regular basis is key.