Andy Butler is a lifelong boater and Vice Flotilla Commander of Flotilla 65 in Fairhaven MA (the largest flotilla in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary). Andy is also District Staff Officer for vessel safety checks, and commodore’s aide in the first northern Division. He has his professional 50 ton captains license and has both sailed transatlantic and fished commercially for tuna in the Northeast canyons for 20 years.
As we welcome the month of August with high hopes of sun, fun, and good cheer, foot health plays a pivotal role in keeping us happy, healthy, and pain-free. Knowing these potential dangers and taking these simple precautions can keep your feet healthy & ready to take on even the steepest hike or the most daring ocean adventure.
5 Tips to Protect Your Feet In The Heat:
#1 To Flip-Flop or Not? As you probably expect, wearing flip-flops is not a recommendation in most circumstances. Why? Support (or lack thereof). Your foot (in all seasons) requires a shoe with adequate stability and arch support in order to allow for proper biomechanics, gait, and a more ideal anatomical alignment. If you must (and let’s be honest – most of us are guilty of sportin’ these summer favorites), I recommend buying a pair that has arch support. Vionic is a brand that does provides some support and what they call “orthaheel technology.” However, wearing sneakers or a supportive shoe is best, but if you must cheat it’s a brand to consider.
#2 Sunblock – We are all familiar with the dangers of the sun, but often overlooked is sun exposure to the feet. When sunbathing or even during an extended walk outside in sandals, be sure to apply sunblock to the top (dorsum) of the foot. Skin cancer may develop anywhere on the foot, but increased exposure to the sun increases the risk. According to the NIH, malignant melanoma is a “life threatening skin tumor which may arise on the foot.” It has the potential to spread rapidly and can be fatal if not diagnosed early. In addition to applying sunblock, make sure to check your feet regularly for any suspicious or evolving lesions and if noted present to a medical professional for further evaluation.
#3 Barefoot on the Beach – Picture this, walking along the beach on a hot day, feeling the ocean spray, then “ouch” what was that you just stepped on? Seashells, sea critters, even broken glass are often found along the shore. Certainly be careful where you step, but if wearing shoes (i.e., water shoes or even a short stint in sandals) will obviously protect from such puncture wounds and foreign bodies which may require medical attention. In some cases surgical extraction is warranted. It is important to take even more precautions if you have peripheral neuropathy. Not being able to feel your feet can lead to an unknown puncture wound and potentially a subsequent infection. Make sure to check your feet after stroll or a long day at the beach.
#4 Plantar Warts – Walking barefoot also puts you at risk for exposure to bacteria and viruses. Common culprit, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the etiology of most plantar warts (also known as verucca plantaris). Plantar warts are contagious, often painful, and may be difficult to treat. Treatment modalities include cryoablation (freezing), acid, or even laser treatment. Summer is the season of increase incidences of plantar warts as people walk around barefoot at pools, in locker rooms, gym showers, etc. To avoid this painful inconvenience and cosmetically unappealing pathology, be sure to don footwear instead of going barefoot whenever applicable.
#5 Hydration – We have all heard of the multitude of benefits to drinking plenty of water spanning the gamut from increased energy, clear skin, brain function, etc. According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended adequate intake (AI) of water is about 9 cups (for women) and about 13 cups (for men) per day in order to maintain proper body function. This amount is required to replace the loss of water from breathing, perspiration, and urination. However, hydration also plays a role in lower extremity health. Lack of water may lead to foot and leg swelling (edema). Although there are many etiologies to edematous legs & feet, lack of proper hydration can also be the cause.
Dr.Kelly Powers is best known for her national news commentary on Fox News, CNN, NBC and other networks. When she is not on TV, Dr. Powers spends time in the operation room, as she is a podiatric surgeon, with an emphasis on diabetes, wound care/plastic surgery, and sports medicine.