From flip-flops to fungus, we asked a local podiatrist how to prevent summer from taking a toll on our soles.

Summer is hard on feet. What can we do to keep them looking good?

We all need to remember to wear sunscreen on our feet when out in sandals. Our feet are exposed to the sun all summer and should be protected just like the rest of our skin. Moisturizing is also important, especially when you’re out on sandy beaches. And I’d caution folks to not cut nails too short which can make them prone to infection.

How bad is it to spend most of our waking moments barefoot?

In the summertime we do see more puncture wounds. I’d recommend that people wear a hard-sole shoe or sandal when walking outdoors.

Are flip-flops much better?

Flip-flops are OK as long as they have an arch built into them. If you can twist your flip-flops like a fruit roll-up they’re not good. When buying flip-flops, make sure they don’t bend in the middle. That will provide more support for your feet.

My bunions aren’t ready for sandals. What’s the best way to deal with them?

If bunions are causing you pain, you should see a podiatrist. You want to make sure the skin is well-moisturized and lubricated around the bunion. The best advice I can give is to wear comfortable shoes with a wide enough toe. If you have bunions and you’re going to wear sandals, make sure they have a strap that does not go across the bunion.

Can you get athlete’s foot (or anything else) by walking barefoot by the pool?

You sure can. Athlete’s foot likes very damp places like the sitting water on pool decks. It’s a fungal infection of your skin and nail so whenever people are walking around on a pool deck or a shower in a gym, I recommend they use a slide sandal or a slip-on waterproof shoe to protect their feet.

What about the beach? Anything else to look out for?

Just be mindful when you’re walking on the beach where it can be hard to see sharp objects on the ground. And it’s especially important for people with arthritic feet to wear shoes because the uneven surface of the beach can cause them pain.

What’s the best way to combat sweaty feet? Better socks? Powder?

If you have really sweaty feet you should see a dermatologist or podiatrist. Treatments like Botox can sometimes help. If you want to try home treatments, I’d recommend washing your feet with an antibacterial wash and drying them well, including between your toes. You can also use an antifungal powder after they’re dry. Socks made of moisture-wicking material like wool are good at keeping your feet dry.

Humidity means sore, swollen feet. Any tips on preventing or taking care of it?

Walking and exercise can help combat some lower extremity swelling. It is normal to have swelling on humid days. Anything that is persistent and painful should be seen by a podiatrist.

Oops. Didn’t break in my shoes and now I have blisters. Can I pop them?

Blisters should not be popped at home. If the blister is large and painful, it can be drained in the office by a podiatrist. If the blister is small, I’d recommend getting blister-specific bandages to cover it. And don’t try to continue to break in the shoes until the blister is fully healed.

What are the most common reasons people see a podiatrist?

People see podiatrists for lots of things. We help with everything from the bones to the muscles, tendons and skin. Things like fractures, joint injuries, wounds and foot skin conditions. In the summer we see a lot of puncture wounds and nail conditions because people are paying more attention to how their nails look, and also a lot of muscle and tendon injuries as people become more active in the summer months.

What’s one thing you wish everyone would do when it comes to foot care?

Do not take your feet for granted and control the things that you can. Always wear sunscreen, control moisture on your feet and buy good, comfortable shoes that support your feet. If people have concerns they should see their podiatrist as soon as they can.

 

Dr. Aaron Corfield, DPM, is a podiatrist at the M Health Fairview Clinics and Surgery Center in Minneapolis.