Let’s state the obvious first: 2020 isn’t going to have a “typical” summer, with concerns about COVID-19 still very much at forefront.
But the good news is that summer itself is very much not cancelled, and we hope you are taking advantage of the glorious weather to get outside, exercise, run, play, and even enjoy some safe and socially distant outdoor interactions.
Of course, just like any other summer, those plans can get derailed in a hurry if foot or ankle problems keep you from being as active as you want to be. And nothing sounds more miserable than being stuck inside for a few more months with summer foot pain!
We want to help make your summer as sweet as possible, so we’ve provided some tips on how you can keep foot and ankle problems at bay and manage summer foot pain. (We’ve also got some info about a sweet giveaway that can make your summer even more fun … so stick around until the end of the blog to learn more.)
Choose Shoes Carefully
If you want to avoid or limit foot pain, this really is rule number one. The right shoe in the right situation can often dramatically reduce aches, pains, and wear and tear.
On the other hand? A shoe that doesn’t fit, isn’t right for your activity, or is simply worn down due to age and use is often a one-way ticket to trouble.
Make sure your shoes are in good shape and fit your feet properly. They should feel firm on your feet (i.e., not sliding around) but not too tight. The front of the shoe should be about half an inch in front of your longest toe, and you should be able to slide your finger between the heel and back of the shoe (with some resistance) up to the second knuckle. Toes should be able to wiggle freely in all directions.
Sport-specific shoes are highly recommended if you plan to “specialize” in any kind of regular activity. Are you a runner? Get a good pair of running shoes. Love outdoor hiking? Get some trail hiking shoes. Sport-specific shoes are made with the unique pressures and risks of the designated activity in mind, so they keep your feet more comfortable (and more resistant to injury) than a generic gym shoe would in the same situation.
Since this is summer we’re talking about, we’d also recommend uppers made out of breathable fabrics, like mesh or canvas, plus moisture-wicking socks. They’ll keep your feet cooler and less likely to develop unsightly fungal infections or odors.
A Word on Sandals
Sandals, of course, are the ultimate breathable summer footwear choice. But if you plan to do anything more than sit on a beach or lounge around a pool, you will need sandals that offer you as much cushioning and arch support as you’d expect out of a good pair of closed-toed shoes!
We strongly discourage flip flops for anything other than the bare minimum. They’re great for getting in and out of a public restroom or shower, and for getting from your back door to a lawn chair in your backyard. But if you plan to be walking more than a trivial number of steps, they are probably going to cause you pain.
Get a comfortable pair of sandals with thick and sturdy soles, great arch support, and ideally an adjustable strap around the back of the ankle. This allows you to walk normally with good contact and support from your sandal, and not have to scrunch your toes or alter your entire gait just to keep your shoes on your feet.
A Word on Going Barefoot
During the whole COVID-19 “quarantine,” we’ve been hearing from patients who didn’t start to develop foot pain until after a few weeks of being stuck inside at home.
Often, what’s going on is that people who are at home all the time generally aren’t wearing shoes. Without the added cushioning and support that their shoes provide, they may find that their heels or arches aren’t able to handle all the extra forces on their own.
(Before you ask, flip flops are no better than barefoot in this regard.)
Going barefoot also presents other risks when you’re out and about, including cuts, abrasions, and even exposure to bacteria and fungi.
If you find that you’re suffering some unexpected summer foot pain, try wearing your shoes indoors at least part of the day. You might find this takes some of the stress off your heels and arches and improves your symptoms.
Don’t Forget the Sunscreen
The tops of feet need protection from the sun, too – especially if you’re outside in open-toed shoes. Being 5-6 feet further from a star than your face and shoulders doesn’t provide much protection, after all.
Not only are sunburned feet painful and difficult to put inside socks and shoes comfortably, but you may be less likely to catch some of the most dangerous potential consequences of sun damage (namely, cancer) at an early stage if they appear on your feet. So don’t put the bottle away after just doing your face and shoulders!
Go Slow and Steady (at First)
When the stay-at-home order was relaxed and the weather got nice in Michigan, there was a rush of people heading out to “make up for lost time” on exercise. We admire the passion! Unfortunately, ramping up physical activity too quickly after a sedentary period can make you a lot more susceptible to foot and ankle injuries.
It’s the same reason that “weekend warriors” tend to hurt themselves at a high rate. If your feet and ankles aren’t properly conditioned yet, they’re more likely to wear down or break when subjected to too much high-stress activity.
It’s important to listen to what your body is telling you and start any new exercise routine at a pace that pushes you a little bit but doesn’t cause pain or discomfort. In time, you will be able to go faster and harder, but try to limit increases to, at most, 15 percent per week.
Also, if your primary activity is high-impact (running, for example), make sure you build enough rest days into your schedule. On those days you can choose exercises that put less stress on your feet, like going for a bike ride or swim.
Kalamazoo Podiatry Is Here to Help You Enjoy Your Summer
One of the ways we’re doing this is through our July giveaway! One lucky person will earn a gift basket loaded with summer goodies, including a mug, chocolates, picnic supplies, and a gift card to Rollup Ice Cream & Tea!
We’ll be posting about the giveaway on our Facebook page; all you have to do is like, comment, and share the post to be entered into the drawing. Simple!
Of course, another very important way we’re helping is by continuing to provide our patients with high quality foot and ankle care all summer long.
It’s almost never a good idea to “walk off” a painful foot or ankle condition. The typical result is that the problem just gets worse, you continue to be hobbled by pain, and you end up at our office anyway when we could have solved the problem much easier and faster if you had come in earlier.
So please, follow the tips in this blog for summer foot pain, go have a great summer, and contact us right away if you experience any foot problems! We are taking extensive precautions to keep our office a safe environment during the pandemic, so you can feel confident about getting the care you need.