With summer in full swing, it’s time to cast off heavy socks and shoes in favor of open-toed shoes and sandals. As your clients’ feet emerge from hibernation, share these tips for summer foot care.

> Sporting sandals? Stability, support, and protection should be top-of-mind when your client shops for sandals. Advise her to look for a sandal with a low, stable sole and a heel cup that allows the sandal to remain well-aligned on her foot as she walks. A toecap will keep toes from being stubbed. And don’t forget arch support, which helps distribute pressure evenly and makes sandals more comfortable.

> What about flip-flops? They’re everywhere these days, and while they may have a limited place in your client’s warm-weather wardrobe, flip-flops should not be worn as an everyday summer shoe. Flip-flops provide zero support for the feet and ankles, and their structure leaves wearers open to toe stubs and injuries from falling objects. Advise your clients to limit flip-flop use to the poolside or for short strolls up the block. And they should never be worn on uneven terrain.

> Some pre-pedicure advice: Before your client leaves home to see you, she should inspect her feet. If she finds cracked skin, cuts, or blisters, she should delay her service until the skin is healed. These skin problems provide a place for bacteria to enter, which could lead to infection.

> Pass the sunscreen. Most people don’t think about sunscreen for the feet, but it’s an important part of keeping sun damage at bay. The upper surface of the foot generally lies perpendicular to the rays of the sun when standing. This positioning makes the feet susceptible to more ultraviolet radiation than other parts of the body. Recommend that your client rub sunscreen liberally over the tops and sides of the feet as well as in between toes. Creams generally are a better option than spray-on sunscreens, which may not cover all areas of the feet well enough.

> Open shoes equal dirt and dryness. Your client has probably noticed how much dirt and sand accumulate on the feet when she’s wearing sandals or going barefoot. Remind her that clean feet resist infections, so daily washing is important, including in between toes. She should dry thoroughly with her own towel, not one she shares with others. And if dryness develops, moisturizer should be used on the soles and tops of the feet.

> Watch those bare feet. If your client is headed for the beach, advise her to avoid walking barefoot along rocky shores or uneven surfaces. It’s easy to cut or bruise feet or ankles when wading. And if she’s taking to the woods or wild grassy areas, remind her to cover feet and legs with shoes and socks to prevent ticks from attaching to bare skin. Some ticks carry Lyme disease, and covering up helps prevent tick bites.


F. Ray Nickel, M.D., is an orthopaedic surgeon in Ventura, Calif. He is a partner in and medical director of Ventura Orthopedics and serves as the team physician for Ventura College. He is also an active member of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS). The AOFAS maintains a patient-education website, FootCareMD.org, which features articles on various foot and ankle conditions and their treatments.

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