Body Sense

Spring | 2014

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As the weather warms, many of us are tempted to trade our socks and shoes for sandals or flip-flops to give our feet a little fresh air and sunshine. Before you make the transition, however, keep a few things in mind to maintain good foot and ankle health during the spring and summer. "One should consider the foot and the shoe as a platform that stabilizes the rest of the body," says Joseph Daniel, DO, of Rothman Institute Orthopaedics in New Jersey. "You want to make sure that you're using good foot mechanics and appropriate footwear selection to support the body's requirements." EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED Daniel urges against wearing basic flip-flops for any activity that entails more than walking a short distance: "If you're going to be sitting most of the time, wearing flip-flops won't cause any damage. If, on the other hand, you wear them to work where you seat people in a restaurant, your footwear is not going to provide support and stability to the platform of your foot, and will likely cause pain." Excessive walking in flip-flops can also promote the progression of a flat-footed condition due to a lack of arch support. Daniel says, Sandal Season By Brandon Twyford Tips for General Foot and Ankle Health • Maintain good personal hygiene. Check your feet daily, looking for any redness or "hot spots," which can mean a callus or blister is developing. • Apply lotion to your feet before bed, rather than at the beginning of the day, when slippery feet can cause a stability risk. After applying lotion, wear cotton socks to keep the lotion from rubbing off on your sheets. • Take appropriate caution when walking over uneven or irregular surfaces in bare feet, and, when possible, avoid walking on potentially damaging surfaces like rocks. "If you're not standing correctly and you're using poor mechanics because you're in a shoe that's inappropriate, you're probably going to end up with leg pain, knee pain, hip pain, back pain, or some combination thereof." WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A SANDAL? If you're going to wear sandals, Daniel advises, "Teva-style sandals, while not perfect, are far better than a routine flip-flop. In general, they provide a better fit and better protection to the foot. They stabilize the foot by using Velcro straps, rather than the little prong that goes between two toes in a flip-flop. "Comfort should always precede style when choosing any form of footwear, but especially when considering which sandal to buy," Daniel adds. "Always try the sandal on and choose something that will accommodate the anatomy of your foot. Avoid any sandal that causes discomfort or exacerbates an underlying condition." Match the sandal to the activity in which you are going to participate—never wear flip-flops while hiking or climbing, for instance. "Just as you might pick a shoe to match an outfit, you should pick a sandal that matches the activity in which you are going to participate," Daniel says. Before you shell out extra dough for that fancy sandal that touts features like arch support and increased stability, take heed: "Many sandals that proclaim arch support as a selling point are promoting gimmick and offer little to no benefit," Daniel says. "A sandal is not intentionally designed to support the foot—it's basically designed to give you freedom in warm weather and to provide a little bit of protection for the bottom of the foot, unlike a shoe, which has medial-lateral, or inside- outside contour, as well as contour on top, which gives greater stability and allows the arch to work better." With these things in mind, get out and enjoy the sunshine— just make sure you've got on the appropriate footwear. B S Brandon Twyford is the assistant editor for Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.

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