Stephen Merena, DPM, is a podiatrist in the Department of Orthopedics & Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Stephen Merena, DPM, is a podiatrist in the Department of Orthopedics & Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Foot safety might not be the first thing you think of when you think of summer, but to enjoy this time of year, it is essential that we keep our feet in good shape and out of harm’s way. A foot problem can stop you in your tracks — literally.

Here are a few tips to help get the most mileage out of your feet over the summer months.

Shoe gear for foot safety

  • Whether you are hiking, biking, creek walking, or working in the garden, make a smart choice with shoe gear. If you anticipate navigating uneven terrain, make sure to pick a shoe with a sturdy sole so that your feet don’t have to deal with as much stress and strain. High-topped hiking boots may offer more support if you’ve experienced previous ankle sprains.
  • Keep in mind that wet shoes equal wet feet. Skin with moisture trapped against it is more apt to get irritated and blister. If you are planning a long trek, consider having a back-up pair of shoes and socks.
  • Sandals and flip flops are a favorite for almost everyone over the summer. Make sure you pick a quality pair that fits the shape of your foot accurately. Be realistic about the amount of rigorous activity you would choose in a sandal or flip flop.

Appropriate activity level

  • Your feet are not just bones and skin. There are many different moving parts, including tendons, muscles, and ligaments that help coordinate normal weight bearing and gait. If you do “too much too soon,” you may invite an overuse injury. When you ask more of your feet with any activity, increasing that activity gradually over time will decrease the likelihood of developing a nagging injury.

Listen to your feet

  • Pushing through the pain,” is a recipe for trouble! Pain is the body’s natural way of letting you know that something is wrong. Sometimes the problem is easy to remedy. However, some injuries require prompt and/or appropriate medical care. If you feel pain, stop what you are doing and inspect your feet. Look for breaks in the skin, discoloration, swelling or pain to the touch. Seek medical care promptly if you are not sure how to resolve the pain.
  • If you are diabetic, you should make sure to check your feet every day and especially after new activities. Be extra careful with shoe gear. BEWARE: With diabetic feet, pain may not be present even when there may be a significant problem!

Sun Protection

  • Last but not least, don’t forget to protect your feet from the sun. The skin on your feet and toes is just as susceptible to sun burn as any other part of your body. Make sure to apply a generous amount of sun block to your feet and toes before you go outside for the day. If your activity involves water, make sure to reapply as needed.

Keep these tips in mind over the summer and get the most out of your feet!

Stephen Merena, DPM, is a podiatrist in the Department of Orthopedics & Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Vermont Medical Center. He is also an assistant professor in the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.

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