During the summer, feet take a beating through increased activity and extra damage from wearing shoes with no protection or support -- yup, we're talking about your beloved flip-flops.
"Flip-flops make many foot problems worse," says podiatrist Dr. Oliver Zong of Manhattan's NYC Foot Care. "They can also cause new problems like Achilles tendonitis, especially for women going from high heels to flat flip-flops. The tendon doesn't have time to adjust."
Flip-flops don't offer protection against puncture wounds, which can cause blood poisoning and, in rare cases where they're not treated, can be fatal.
"The thin pancake soles are the problem," says Dr. Zong. "It's better to choose a wedge type with arch support."
Summer's plus side for feet is that we actually see them naked and can identify possible problems.
"Look at your feet," Dr. Zong advises. "Check for melanoma. Look for hyperpigmentation, any brownish-blackish marks with jagged edges. If it's bigger than a pencil eraser, get it checked. And always use sunscreen on your feet."
If you're one of many women (and men) who like to primp their tootsies with a pedicure, know how to stay safe in the chair. Dr. Zong advises common sense. "The danger is spreading toe fungus, which is very difficult to treat. Choose a reputable place. If you're unsure whether they have sanitized equipment, ask -- or take your own pedicure set along."
The more you gain, the bigger the pain
Recent research from the Institute for Preventive Foot Health (www.ipfh.org) has linked painful foot problems such as ankle sprains, blisters, calluses and athlete’s foot to obesity. “People who have foot pain are less likely to be active and that can lead to weight gain and then other health problems,” says Dr. Zong. “Most foot problems are caused by friction from shoes. Wearing wider shoes is one option. Athlete’s foot and other fungal conditions are easily treated with over-the-counter creams and proper hygiene.”