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Summer Footwear, Summer Foot Care

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

During warm weather, feet are more exposed and more
vulnerable to irritation and injury, says Dr. Jane Anderson, a
podiatrist on the staff of Durham Regional Hospital, part of
Duke University Health System. And some of these problems are
caused by our choice of footwear.

"One of the most common foot problems we see in the
summertime is cracking in the heels," Anderson says. "People
complain of dry, cracked heels, which are normally caused by
open-backed shoes such as sandals. During the summertime, you
might want to alternate closed shoes with sandals."

Anderson says sport sandals, with their added support, can
be a good choice in summer months, but she cautions against
certain other styles.

"Avoid sandals with thongs between the toes, like a
flip-flop," she says. "These can be very annoying to the skin
between your toes and can cause problems with blisters, corns
and calluses."

One of Anderson's strongest recommendations is to always
measure your feet whenever you buy sandals or shoes of any
kind. Pay special attention to the part of the shoe called the
'toe box,' making sure it's round enough and wide enough not to
squeeze your toes. Narrow, pointed styles, she says, can
irritate bony deformities and worsen such problems as bunions
or hammertoes. A round toe box, like those found in some
European brands, can be an asset in controlling pain, she
says.

If you'd like to test your own shoes, simply trace your bare
foot on a piece of paper, then place your shoe on the tracing.
If you can see the toes on either side of the shoe, the toe box
is too pointed or too narrow.

When buying sandals and other shoes for children, Anderson
recommends that parents look for models that minimize slippage
and maximize flexibility, in order to allow good arch
development. And she recommends wearing sport-specific shoes
when participating in athletic activities. Wearing footwear
designed expressly for a particular sport, she says, can help
prevent injuries.

Persons with diabetes need to be especially careful in the
summer, says Anderson. Because of a common condition called
peripheral neuropathy, or numbness in their feet, they might
not notice a cut or fissure in the skin caused by stepping on a
thorn, piece of glass, splinter or other foreign body.

And in the summertime, remember to take good care of hot,
aching feet.

"Sometimes a nice soak in cool water with a little Epsom
salts or a massage is helpful," says Anderson. "If your feet
are consistently painful at the end of the day, maybe you
should visit your foot health provider, a podiatrist, and
determine if this is a medical problem."

For more information about feet, visit the Web site of the
American
Podiatric Medical Association
.

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