Summer is usually the time to relax, let loose, and enjoy outdoor activities. This year, probably more than any other year, we are all in need of fresh air, sunlight, and movement right now - both for our minds and our bodies. But how about our feet? There are certain things we need to be mindful of during these summer months to make sure our feet stay strong and healthy. Why is foot health important? Because joint and muscular health starts from the ground up. If your feet are healthy, it's far less likely that you'll develop aches and pains in other places of your body.
We've spoken with doctors, pysiologists, podiatrists, and fitness experts who have shared their best tips and advice to ensure optimal summer foot health.
1) Avoid Flip Flops - this is a tough one, but it's very important.
Master Kinesiologist Christie Carlson says, "Avoid flip flops for anything more than a simple errand like a trip to the grocery store. If you’re going to be on your feet for an extended amount of time, or on slippery or uneven terrain, wear tennis shoes or other shoes that don’t require that your toes hold the shoes to your feet."
Orthopedist Dr. Kristen Gasnick sheds more light on the biomechanical harm that flip flops can cause. "Flip-flops offer no support to the foot or ankle as the flat bottoms can contribute to strain and/or flattening of the medial longitudinal arch of the foot, and the lack of structure in the shoe design can predispose one to a greater risk of ankle sprains. Because the toes must tighten around the thong of the flip-flop in order to keep it on while walking, the natural rocker mechanics of the foot are disrupted in the gait cycle with compromised ability to use the big toe for push-off. This irregular pattern of muscle contraction in the foot can further lead to problems like plantar fasciitis due to increased tension placed on the plantar fascia."
2) Daily Care - Dr. Chris Norris, Physiotherapist and Neurologist, emphasizes the importance of daily attention to and care for your feet.
- Check them daily for cuts, sores, swelling, and infected toenails.
- Give them a good cleaning in warm water, but avoid soaking them because that may dry them out.
- Moisturize them every day with lotion, cream, or petroleum jelly. Don’t put moisturizer between your toes. You want to keep the skin there dry to prevent infection.
3) Massage - now this is one tip we can definitely get behind.
Dr. Susie Colles, Ayurvedic Healer and Yoga Therapist, says, "An extremely helpful practice to keep feet healthy and happy is to massage oil (particularly sesame oil) into the soles of the feet just before bed. In addition to providing anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, Ayurveda understands that this nourishes and softens the skin and stops it from cracking, promotes blood flow and circulation, penetrates into and calms the muscles and nerves, and promotes a good night's sleep."
4) Invest in Good Footwear - According to Certified Health Coach & ACE Fitness Trainer Lynell Ross, "One of the most important things you can do to take care of your overall health and prevent injury is to wear properly fitted quality shoes. If you wear shoes that are too big, too small, or are poorly constructed you won't get the support you need which can cause problems such as bruised toenails, sore feet and injured ankles, legs and a sore back. Even in summer, purchase walking shoes and sandals that provide proper support."
5) Strengthen Foot Muscles - ultra-runner and Fitness Expert Michael Kirkegaard emphasizes the importance of strengthening your foot muscles so that your feet and arches can work properly to support you. He says, "In general, most people should train their feet more. I always recommend people walking more barefoot or try barefoot shoes or Five Fingers. It has helped me a lot, and I am running ultras in my barefeet. It helped me with flat feet and arches, and most people should try it but start slowly."
6) Rotate Your Shoes & Change Socks Daily - Dr. Norris says that even though we're spending more time at home, it's still important to rotate the shoes we are wearing and change socks daily. "Socks made of cotton, wool or bamboo are best as they are breathable and also help to keep the feet at the correct temperature, as well as helping to avoid foot odor! Always make sure socks fit properly, paying attention to the width of your foot and ankle. If your feet are swollen, look for socks designed to accommodate the swelling. Elastic-free socks are great for preventing the cuff of socks cutting into your leg. If you do not have access to these at the moment, you can always make a scissor cut into the top of the sock to relieve the pressure."
Even if you can't implement all of these tips at once, all of the experts say that starting slowly is better than not at all.
Here's to good (foot) health!