Eeeek! Hot sand, tarry asphalt, pool slop crawling with microbes, teetery high-heeled sandals, 10-mile hikes -- feet sure take a beating in summer.
Nearly half of all Americans suffer from a foot problem at some point in their lives, says the American Podiatric Medical Association. And summer, when people are more apt to be active and away from home (and doctors), can be especially problematic.
"This is the best advice I have," says James W. Brodsky, MD, an orthopaedist in private practice, and clinical professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas. "We see so many injuries from going barefoot. Even in that cool grass that feels so good can be a dangerous, cutting object."
A second reason not to bare those dogs is that you could have neuropathy from an unknown cause (even if you are not diabetic). You may not even know you have it. You could dash across the street barefoot, and even if it's hot enough to fry an egg out there, you wouldn't feel it. But you would get burned. "A lot of people don't know they have it (neuropathy) until they get an injury," Brodsky says.
Diabetics should never walk barefoot -- even indoors, says Brodsky, who is president of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. Think of all the sharp toys and home improvement materials left on the floor, especially in summer.
2. Avoid (or Treat) Heel Pain
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, the band of connective tissue that supports the arch of your foot and extends to the heel. It is a common cause of heel pain. Every other step...ouch!
Marlene Reid, DPM, a podiatrist in private practice in Westmont, Ill., and past president of the American Association for Women Podiatrists, tells WebMD plantar fasciitis can best be prevented by walking in sturdy shoes, with good stability and arch support, rather than flimsy sandals or flip-flops.
Once it starts panging, the disorder -- which usually hurts worst right after taking the first steps in the morning -- can go on for months, gradually getting worse rather than better.
If the pain lasts more than two months, Reid recommends seeing a doctor. "You could stretch gently in the morning before walking," she says. "There also are different types of heel cups you can buy.
"The doctor might also recommend physical therapy or night splints," Reid says. "Cortisone can be injected, and there are shockwave and cryogenic treatments available to destroy the inflamed tissue and promote normal healing."
3. Wear Sensible Shoes
Sandals that make you grip with your toes to keep them on may cause tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendons in the toes, Reid says. So get a shoe that attaches firmly.