How to Avoid the Summer Shoe Blues
After spending the winter months in heavy socks, shoes, and boots, it’s no wonder most of us long to set our feet free when the weather gets warm. But all summer shoes are not created equal. Virtua foot and ankle specialist and orthopedic surgeon Rick Raimondo, MD, offers the following healthy ways to show off that pretty summer pedicure.
Are You a Flip-Flop Fanatic?
“I see a lot of flip-flop and sandal wearers in my office,” says Dr. Raimondo. “Unfortunately, when women wear them more often, I see a range of complaints, including plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the plantar fascia, which connects the heel to the toes) and metatarsalgia (pain under the balls of the feet).”
Also, because flip-flops in particular put a lot of stress on the big toe, wearers are prone to a flare-up of any pre-existing arthritis in that joint. But the problem is not just the shoe – it’s also the fact that we’re on our feet more in the summer.
“We’re outdoors, we’re enjoying the good weather, walking, shopping, sightseeing,” says Dr. Raimondo. “This makes proper footwear even more important.”
“I’m not saying you should never wear flip-flops or sandals,” he continues. “But a few hours a day versus all day, every day is going to make a big difference for your feet.”
When you’re shoe shopping, Dr. Raimondo recommends looking for well-cushioned flip-flops and sandals with thicker, stiffer soles and at least some arch support.
Is Barefoot Better?
Not necessarily. “Walking barefoot is a slightly different motion than walking with shoes on; you put stress on your foot in a different way,” says Dr. Raimondo. This is not automatically a good or bad thing, but it is something to be mindful of – especially when you’re on the beach or other uneven terrain.
“Walking barefoot in sand is very tough on the achilles tendon area,” warns Dr. Raimondo. “On the other hand, it’s also great exercise.” If you have a pre-existing issue with your feet, stick to short trips in the dry sand and stay on the wet, hard-packed sand for longer walks. If, however, you want to walk in deep sand for a workout, start slow, wear proper footwear, and gradually strengthen your achilles tendon to avoid injury.
On hard surfaces, walking barefoot is fine for short distances as long as it doesn’t produce pain, says Dr. Raimondo, “…unless you’ve walked barefoot most of your life, in which case your feet are better conditioned for it. But as we go into adulthood, many of us have developed foot problems like arthritis and tendon tears that will be aggravated without the support of a sturdy shoe.”
Hooked on High Heels?
Strappy heels, peep-toe pumps, and sky-high wedges are all on trend this summer. But it probably comes as no surprise that our feet don’t love these shoes as much as our eyes do.
If you’re walking to and from the car, out to dinner, or to a special event, you’ll likely do fine and look great in a properly fitted, well-made pair of these shoes. “It’s when you’re wearing them every day, or running all-day errands in them, that you can develop problems,” says Dr. Raimondo. “Bunions, metatarsalgia, tendonitis, stress fractures...the list goes on and on.”
How to avoid a trip to Dr. Raimondo’s office? Wear them for brief intervals whenever possible (consider wearing something comfortable and supportive until you get where you’re going), and when you’re choosing your next pair, look for a roomier toe box, a lower heel, cushion underneath the toe, and some support around the ankle.
How to give your feet a happier, healthier summer? A little extra care and caution, and you’ll sing the summer shoes blues no more.
Updated June 15, 2016