American writer/ satirist, Russell Baker wrote “Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.” Even though temperatures may rise to nearly unbearable in our beloved Louisiana, we still flock to our lakes and rivers, fire up the grill and flip flops become the footwear of choice… only to be beat out by bare feet running down the pier. Unfortunately, these seasonal behaviors, can wreak havoc of our feet leading to foot pain, blisters and even increasing your risk of infection and injury
There is a lot you can do to protect your feet and ankles. Here are five tips to help keep your feet in tip top shape this summer.
- Flip and flop in moderation. Flip Flops are a summer staple, and they are comfortable, convenient, and fun. However, flip flops typically offer little to no structural support around the foot and extraordinarily little, if any arch support. This lack of support can lead to foot/ankle pain and fatigue which can lead to even greater orthopedic issues. Flip Flops are not designed to wear all day. I tell my patients to wear the proper shoes for daily activities, so you can wear the fun shoes for special occasions or shorter periods of time. Not all flip flops are created equally… When shopping for a new pair, look for flip flops that have a thicker sole with arch support and a moderate toe box that allows minimal movement underneath the toes.
- Drink plenty of water. Spending more time on our feet and in the summer, heat can cause our feet and ankles to swell and a big contributor to this swelling is dehydration. When you perspire and do not take in enough water, your blood will become slightly thicker which decreases circulation and can exacerbate foot and ankle swelling. When outdoors, try to always keep water with you and if the weather is particularly hot, try to continue drinking and do so regularly. If foot and ankle swelling persist, lie down, and elevate the feet higher than the rest of the body. You can also soak your feet in ice water for fifteen minutes or less to reduce swelling.
- Wear your sunscreen! Summer footwear or lack thereof leads to greater sun exposure to the feet. In the summer, we replace shoes, boots and socks with flip flops and sandals. The skin on the outside of the foot is very thin and more susceptible to sunburns and sun damage and can increase the chance for calluses and blisters forming on the feet. Do not forget about your lower body! Getting a sunburn on your feet will make it very painful to wear shoes in the coming days.
- Waterskiing… Woe is me! We love our lakes in Louisiana and one of our favorite pastimes is to get behind a boat on a pair of skis. Being aware of some of the common injuries associated with waterskiing can help water enthusiasts reduce risk of injury and seek proper treatment if an injury does ensue. Some of the more common water skiing injuries I see as a foot and ankle surgeon include ankle sprains, fractures and Achilles’ tendon injuries. In all water sports, ankle sprains are probably the most common injury. If the water skier catches the edge of the water, it can cause the foot to be pulled backwards causing the leg to move outwards or inwards resulting in either an ankle inversion sprain (outward) or ankle eversion sprain (inwards). Prevention and taking precautions are key to keeping you on the water. Make sure before you get behind the boat that you practice strengthening and conditioning exercises and that you are in sync with your boat captain regarding turns and speed changes. Remember to adjust the skis so that your feet are not wobbling in the event of a crash and most importantly, if you suspect or know you have an injury, do not push the limits, and consult an orthopedic foot and ankle specialist sooner rather than later. Also, with all water sports, whether it be the pool, the lake, the beach, be sure to rinse and clean your feet. Stagnant water often carries bacteria which can potentially lead to foot infections.
- Do not ignore foot pain. If something happens to one or both of your feet, it can have a major impact on the rest of your body. Foot and ankle instability often leads to putting extra stress on our body, particularly the knees, hips, and spine. If you have an injured foot or have persistent pain, see your doctor. A lot of patients put off coming to see an orthopedic surgeon because they think we automatically direct you to have surgery. In reality, most of the time patients will not have surgery and there usually is a relatively quick fix that we can treat in the clinic.
- With summer and greater exposure of your feet, do not ignore blisters, punctures or wounds and be mindful of your feet by strengthening and conditioning the feet and wearing the proper footwear for the designated activity.
If you would like more information on how to care for your feet and ankles, I encourage you to visit: http://myfootcaremd.com/
J. Marshall Haynie, MD is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in lower extremity/ foot & ankle, as well as general orthopedics. To schedule an evaluation, please call or visit: 866.759.9679 or orthopedicspecialistsla.com.