The changing of seasons brings with it changes of what you put on your feet, what you do with your feet and what you do to your feet. There are a lot of things that tend to keep us busy this time of year at the office. There are some common foot conditions that are seen year round, but there are definitely some foot issues that seems to be more prevalent in warmer weather.
Some people can't wait to get out of boots and into shoes and sandals that are less bulky. When it comes to getting out of boots, we find many patients having less pain from ingrown nails as a result of their shoes. There is more real estate in our shoes and of course with sandals our toes are usually more free and experience less crowding and pressure. That being said, many people tend to keep up on pedicures in the warmer months to be prepared for wearing open toed shoes and sandals. Pedicures pose their own risk of damage to the nails including ingrown nails or over-trimming of cuticles and calluses. Pedicures also expose us to more bacteria and fungus which can lead to a variety of infections.
When going for a pedicure, a few things can help keep your feet out of trouble. First, going to a spa that takes hygiene seriously. Any basins where your feet soak should be protected with a barrier. The equipment should also be clean. Either sterilized instrument packages or bringing your own clean equipment are great options. Wearing gloves during your pedicure services also decreases the transmission of infections.
The second recommendation is to trim your nails to the desired length prior to arriving. Nail technicians have a variety of experience and while one may be more conservative with trimming, others can be very aggressive and in some cases the skin or nail can be trimmed too short/too far down, leading to an ingrown nail and/or an infection in the skin. I always recommend that when you sit down for the pedicure, let them know that you only want the nails filed, not trimmed and especially not trimmed in the corners. Besides, if you are going in for a little self-care, who wants to have their toenails dug out and bleeding? And, if despite our recommendations you find yourself having pain, redness or notice an open wound after a pedicure, call our office sooner rather than later. The earlier this is addressed, the less likely there will be lingering complications.
For the sake of keeping your nails healthy, even in the summer, it is recommended to remove polish from the nails every few weeks and let the nails be open to air for at least one week between painting them. There is a far less likelihood of developing an advanced nail fungus infection if you are keeping track of the appearance of the nails before it gets out of hand.
You can't help but look forward to warmer weather in order to be more active outside. This can mean more time on your bike, more miles on the prairie path or just more time walking because getting fresh air feels so good after a long winter. The important thing to remember when getting back into your outdoor routines is to not overdo it! You may feel, like I often do this time of year, like you could go out and run 10 miles. You may want to because you haven't been able to for such a long time. Don't do 10 miles at once if you haven't been building up those miles at the gym or on the treadmill at home throughout the winter. By increasing your activity too quickly - whether by intensity/time or mileage - this can result in overuse injuries including tendinitis, plantar fasciitis and stress fractures. Letting your body and feet adjust to activity changes helps the tendons and bones to slowly increase strength to support these new demands.
We have so many patients who see us each year to have custom orthotics evaluated. Custom orthotics can last up to around 5 years before needing to be replaced, but some people put so many miles on their orthotics that they are well worn within 1-2 years time. For our patients who are new to custom orthotics, around this time of year they want to know what will happen if they don't wear them "all the time." They are primarily asking because they want to wear sandals and know they will be wearing them a lot. While there have been some companies out there that offer custom footbeds to support the foot better, these can be pretty pricey and not everyone is nuts about the styles available. There are definitely some sandals out there that will generally be better for your feet than others.
When it comes to the well-known cheap flip flops from Old Navy for instance, they serve a limited purpose in our eyes. If you are going to camp in the summer and facing communal showers or want something to walk from your seat at the pool to grab a snack from the concessions area - sure, wear the cheap flip flops. Otherwise, in all honesty, you need better support. If you are into a more casual style and like the flip flop style, we recommend Spenco sandals. They have a supportive foot bed that provides heel support, arch support and even padding near the forefoot to alleviate pressure under the ball of the foot area. These are my go to for washing the car or walking around the house doing chores. If you are going for a walk to the park or running some errands and don't want to wear gym shoes, Merrell, Earth Origin or Keen are great. These shoes have a good foot bed and also have enough straps on top to keep your foot secure and reduce overuse of tendons. For a slightly more dressy sandal that still will provide some amount of support, Vionic has some great styles.
Whatever your goals and desires for the warmer months this year, make sure to treat your feet to the support they need and build your activities slowly. Be mindful where and how your pedicures are done. And as always if you find yourself having trouble due to pain and discomfort, call our office for an evaluation. We will help you get to where you want to be!