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Health Center Today, May 18, 2011

Summer Sandal Season May Prove Perilous for Your Feet

By Carolyn Pennington

While many welcome the arrival of sandal season, the problems it may pose for your feet should not be ignored.

Dr. Douglas Albreski, a podiatrist with the UConn Health Center, says some summer shoe styles can leave your feet in pain and cause injuries. For instance, flip-flops can lead to lower-leg pain. Wearing high, spiky heels can increase your chances of foot and ankle injuries as well as backaches and blisters.

Nearly half of all Americans suffer from a foot problem at some point in their lives, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. And summer, when people are more apt to be active away from home (and doctors), can be especially problematic.

Dr. Albreski offers some summer footwear tips:

1. Don't Go Barefoot: Even in that cool grass that feels so good can be a dangerous, cutting object.

2. Limit Flip-Flops: Researchers found people tend to strike the ground with less force when wearing flip-flops which may alter your normal gait and create lower leg pain.Because flimsy flip-flops lack support, they should only be worn for short periods of time, like when you go to the beach. They should not be your primary form of footwear. Replace flip-flops every three to four months like you would with running shoes. Over time, the soft cushiony material breaks down and the shoe loses its resiliency.

3. Wear Sensible Shoes: Sandals that make you grip with your toes to keep them on may cause tendonitis. Avoid pointy or high-heeled shoes. A 3-inch heel causes pressure seven times your body weight. Thicker heels distribute weight better. A 1-inch chunky heel is best.

4. Protect Feet From Contaminated Water: At the pool, in the gym, in the locker room, wear clogs or flip-flops. Podiatrists see more patients with athlete’s foot in the summer.

5. Don't Wear New Shoes on a Hike: Wear socks no matter how hot it is. If you get a blister - don't pop it - it acts like a Band-Aid, providing protective cushioning.