Summer Footwear and the Feet
Nothing beats waking up in the early hours of Spring and Summer to find the windows and grass frosted over as the sun beams down, reflecting through the crystalized water and creating a breath taking glare which screams that today is going to be a pearler. The singlet and shorts are donned to reveal a contrasting tan line from the months past as your look in the wardrobe and try to decide which shoes you will be wearing today…or if any are actually necessary for the activities are planned for the day. Summer fashion, particularly footwear is a major reason for people attending a podiatry clinic over the warmer months. Your activity levels increase, the shoes you wear majority of the time, not just while on your 30min run are questionable and those on-going stressors build until the body cannot take any more – ending in pain or injury just before the colder months start, your routine suffers and you invariably end up putting back on those 10kg you had managed to lose. So today we look at summer footwear and the impact it has on the feet and what you can do to limit the impact.
So let’s begin with those who choose to walk around barefoot. Let me point out, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this at all, in fact I whole heartedly encourage this whenever possible, be it summer or winter. The important thing to be aware of is how much your body can tolerate and either working on increasing its tolerance or getting back into shoes at the appropriate time.
A number of exercises can be complete to increase the strength within the intrinsic muscles of the foot. Examples of these exercises can be seen below, primary focus when being barefoot is being aware of the surfaces you are walking upon and while increasing your tolerance making sure you stick to softer surfaces when possible.
Towel Scrunch: Fast gripping of the towel with toes for an extended period of time – aim for 2min.
Big Toe Adduction: Control movement of the 1st toe toward the midline of the body.
Isometric Calf Raises: Place a towel under the 1st toe as shown and raise the heel approx. 2/3 of max height from the ground and hold.
Most people are aware there are two kinds of thongs available commercially these days. The first is the traditional flat 15mm blown rubber with double or single plugs. The second is the slightly elevated mid foot arch creating a supportive structure for those who choose to wear them.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to these products. Those with feet which are in a more pronated or flat position often find the arch support in these thongs too aggressive and tend to cause irritation to the plantar aspect of the foot. However, those with flexible flat feet or a higher arch can find these to be more comfortable than the traditional flat thongs.
Both products have a common issue – their fixation method. The strap of the thong which covers the forefoot and slips between the 1st and 2nd is often a cause for increased forefoot pain, especially at the 1st MTP joint as the big toe abducts and flexes to form a grip on the footwear to hold it in place.
This can lead to hastened fatigue of the intrinsic muscle of the foot and subsequent lower leg as the duration or frequency of these actions increase. This can lead to the development of conditions such as plantarfasciosis, insertional achillies tendinopathy, FHL tendinopathy and the many diagnosis associated with metatarsalgia. An open shoe with more appropriate fixation is commonly suggested as a better option.
Sandals offer much better fixation than the average flip flop. At the very least, a full length forefoot strap is in place to help reduce the need for clawing of the toes to keep the footwear on; at the very best you have an 8 strap leather shoe with holes in it, where you find yourself asking “why didn’t they just fill the rest in?”
The more intricate design of these products is what helps when it comes to open toed footwear. The decrease in soft tissue fatigue has the potential to significantly reduce the chances of pain or injury. For the dads out there who are looking to embarrass the kids a good pair of white socks always goes quite well with this type of footwear and can be worn at any occasion.
High Heels and Wedges
In any weather the high heel can be a disaster to the feet, ankles, knees and hips. The acute angle which even a “small” 3-inch heel places the foot in, can lead to ankle injuries, forefoot trauma and affect balance directly causing falls. The tight, pointed and low profile toe box increases pressures on the toes and forefoot while the increase in heel height shortens the achillies tendon and tips the centre of gravity forward.
The important message in this situation is to play it safe. In this day and age, or any day and age for that matter, very little consideration has been taken in regards to health when something is considered to be fashionable – heels, smoking, drinking are just some examples.
A thought when deciding on what to wear is how long will you be in these shoes? What surfaces will you walking on? Do you have the option to sit or remove your shoes? Do these colours actually go together?
Until Next Time