Your poor feet have been mummified by thick, heavy winter boots for quite long enough. Now that the Midwest is heating up, it’s finally time to reintroduce your feet to the great outdoors with a nice pair of sandals!
But take care – choosing the wrong sandals could put a serious damper on your summer fun. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons advises that the wrong pair of sandals can cause several types of injuries including Achilles tendinitis, heel pain and stress fractures, and may even break any of the 26 bones in the foot. England’s National Health Service estimates that flip-flops alone account for 200,000 injuries and $62 million in medical bills annually. And Great Britain’s summer weather isn’t nearly as nice as Minnesota’s!
So how do you pick summer sandals which pose the lowest risk of foot and ankle pain and injury? It’s easy, if you just follow this handy guide!
Pick the Right Size
If you are like 80% of Americans, then your left foot is slightly longer than your right foot. It is important to select a pair of sandals (or any other type of footwear) which comfortably fits your longer foot.
Your feet likely stopped growing when you turned 20 or 21 years old – but gravity will make your feet longer and wider for the rest of your life. That means if you wore a size 8 a couple of decades ago, you may need to go a size higher now. If you would like current and accurate foot measurements, then there is no one better to ask than your podiatrist!
Note that sandals should offer a slightly looser fit than what you are accustomed to from your shoes. This will allow your feet to breathe more easily when the weather is sultry, and decrease your risk of blistering or contracting a fungal infection as the result.
Pick the Right Straps
Sandals with very thin straps may look fashionable, but they are also much more likely to cause blistering and other sources of discomfort. And if a blister on your foot pops, it creates an easy point of access to bacteria and fungi which could cause infection.
Gladiator-style sandals may have worked well for gladiators, but they can cause you a great deal of discomfort. Tight straps around your legs may cause swelling by placing excessive pressure against your vein walls. The friction and pressure tight leg straps create may also cause blistering, as well as unappealing skin impressions known as “gladiator feet.” (We’re sure that swords and tridents gave real Roman gladiators far more pressing health concerns to worry about.)
Pick the Right Support
Flip-flops and many other types of sandals have extremely thin soles. These provide poor shock absorption, and they are at especially high risk of injuring people whose fat pads have naturally atrophied with age. If your feet feel unusually fatigued after you have worn sandals, it is likely that their soles are too thin!
Sandals with flat heels are to be avoided. These offer very little of the arch support you need to remain balanced while walking or running, so they may cause you to trip and fall. Sandals with good arch support will enhance comfort by reducing the amounts of pressure placed on the heels and balls of your feet, as well as put you at lower risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
Pick the Right Sun Protection
Melanoma often develops on parts of the body which are seldom exposed to direct sunlight. Foot and ankle lesions account for 3 to 15% of all cutaneous melanomas. Many of these cases may have been avoided had patients only chosen footwear which provides adequate protection against sunlight.
If you plan on spending all day outdoors, also plan to wear sandals only part of the time. When you do wear sandals, make certain to apply sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 to your feet. And if you must wear sandals all day, select a pair which covers as much of your sensitive feet as possible!
Pick the Right Material
Although they are affordable, sandals made of rubber and plastic have an enormous drawback. These nonpermeable materials trap in heat and humidity to make your feet sweat more. In addition to causing discomfort, sandals which prohibit your feet from breathing increase your chances of developing a fungal infection like athlete’s foot.
If you’re buying new sandals, try to select a pair made of a breathable material such as cotton, polyester, rayon, lycra or polypropylene. You’ll be rewarded with much cooler and happier feet!
If you’re suffering from a foot or ankle condition that can be blamed on bad sandals or any other cause, then the passionate podiatrists of TC Foot & Ankle Clinic are available to see you right away. We welcome you to contact us today to schedule a visit at one of our convenient locations in Golden Valley and Woodbury, Minnesota!