While soaking up the summer sun, a pair of healthy feet makes all the difference. At Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates (FASA), five providers across the South Sound (Centralia, Lacey, Olympia, Tacoma and Tumwater) help patients with below-the-knee injuries and ailments, including those sustained through outdoor recreation. Whether strolling along the shores of the Puget Sound, hiking on a local trail or exploring Lewis County on a daycation, maintaining healthy feet when outdoors can help patients to spend less time in a doctor’s office and more time doing what they love.
Aches and Pains
Sometimes, summertime recreation can aggravate tendonitis or lead to tendon imbalances. If outdoor activities are causing aches and pains in the foot or ankle, there are certain stretching and strengthening exercises that can help to ease tendon pain. Soaking or icing the feet can also help with foot aches and pains. To further reduce foot swelling, Lundborg says it’s important to stay hydrated.
When spending time outdoors, the type of footwear a person uses can have a significant impact on foot health. The wrong type of footwear can increase the risk of injury, aggravate chronic foot conditions and can lead to foot pain. Dr. Michael Lundborg, a provider at FASA’s Tumwater clinic, says popular summertime footwear, like strappy sandals or flip flops, is often not the best choice for outdoor recreation, like hiking. Flip flops have poor foot support and can cause tendon imbalance, fatigue in the foot, plantar fasciitis, tendon strains or tendonitis.
“Sandals are not the best thing to wear, especially the flip-flop type sandal,” says Lundborg. “It can create a lot of tendon problems, which create pain and soreness. If people are walking around a lot or hiking, wearing the right shoe is important. Something that gives their foot support. That’s number one. Sandals aren’t always the best shoe for your feet.”
Foot and ankle injuries like sprains and strains can really put a damper on your outdoor fun. Although not all injuries are preventable, the severity of an injury can be mitigated with proper footwear and conditioning.
“If you’re on a hike, it’s important to have ankle support in the shoe, and have a shoe that supports the foot, so your foot doesn’t have to do all the work,” says Lundborg. “There are also stretching and strengthening exercises for the ankles that can help prevent injuries. People that are prone to straining their ankles can also get ankle braces to prevent further injuries from happening.”
If a person is injured when out on the trail, Lundborg says it’s important to seek medical care if they can’t put weight on their injured foot. In addition, a person should also seek care if they continue to experience pain or soreness for several days after their initial injury.
“Little strains usually can heal up,” says Lundborg. “But if it’s more of a tendon tear or some kind of stress fracture, the patient would need to be seen earlier so they can get proper advice on if they should keep going, or if they need to stay off of their feet.”
Foot Skin Care
In addition, summertime foot health includes not only the foot’s muscles, bones and joints, but also the skin of the foot. Lundborg says that although patients often forget to apply sunscreen to their feet, SPF is important to help prevent sunburn and reduce exposure to UV rays.
From wearing open shoes, to warmer seasonal temperatures, the foot may be prone to callouses, blisters or dry and cracked heels in the summer. Open shoes can often put extra stress on the heel, causing potentially painful dry spots, cracks and fissures. Dry foot skin can also be caused by foot sweat or poor air circulation around the foot.
Lundborg recommends that people with dry foot skin regularly apply lotion to help moisturize the foot. For severe dry patches or for forming callouses, patients can also apply petroleum jelly to the affected areas and wrap in plastic wrap overnight to help reduce dryness.
Whether walking through a park’s grassy field or on along a sandy beach, Lundborg says patients should also avoid walking barefoot, especially if they have conditions like diabetes or neuropathy of the foot. If a patient doesn’t have feeling in their foot, they might unknowingly experience an injury.
“If they walk barefoot, they won’t be able to feel if they get a burn or step on a rock or something like that, so it’s important to try to not walk barefoot outside as much,” explains Lundborg. “For people with neuropathy and people in general, because you never know what you’re going to step on and walking barefoot increases your risk of getting fungal infections and bacterial infections.”
To learn more about FASA’s surgical or foot care services, or to schedule an appointment, visit the Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates website.