Reducing Foot Pain During the Summer
Updated: Aug 30
After this rough winter, it is so exciting to have warm weather on the way in! However, the warmer weather often leads to foot pain. The biggest reason stems from our shoe choices: flip-flops, flimsy sandals, and bare feet don't support our arches, which can lead to plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, and metatarsalgia, an inflammation of the ball of the foot. Poor shoe choices can also lead to knee, hip, and back pain.
The Problem with Flip-Flops
“With flip-flops, you’re walking on something that’s just a flat piece of rubber with no support,” says Dr. Cheryl Abelow. Flip-flop fans may "forget that their favorite footwear was created to be worn at the beach or pool. They weren’t designed for hours spent walking in the city." It’s the flip-flop’s no-frills design that contributes to summer’s most common foot injury, metatarsalgia. An extremely painful condition, metatarsalgia is inflammation of the ball of the foot. “To walk in flip-flops, you have to grip the toe piece with your toes. While flexing your toes down, you’re driving the ball of your foot into the ground,” says Dr. Abelow. “You’re using muscles in an order they don't usually move in, and with no support, you get pain across the ball of the foot and in its joints—the metatarsal joints.” Left untreated, metatarsalgia can result in stress fractures of the metatarsal joints and several weeks in a cast—or worse, a complete bone fracture that requires surgery.
Luckily, not everyone experiences foot pain. If you aren't experiencing pain, or if you just absolutely refuse to part with your flip-flops, find a pair that has a stiffer sole, a bit of an arch, and a rocker bottom. Archies, sold at FlexPlus Physical Therapy & Balance Centers, are designed to support your feet with arch supports, tighter straps to avoid gripping your toes, and a heel cup - but unlike most orthotic flip flops, look just like any other pair of flip flops - and they don't break the bank.
Think Flats Are Better?
Many people who steer clear of flip-flops believe that flats are a better, healthier option for their feet. They couldn’t be more wrong. “I don’t think there’s anything positive about flats,” says Dr. Abelow. Like flip-flops, flats and deck shoes are floppy and unsupportive of your feet. Frequent wearers often suffer from metatarsalgia as the ball of the foot and its adjacent joints receive a pounding with each step. And if you have foot problems already, you could be in line for even more discomfort. “People who need arch support in their shoe such as flat-footed people can get strains like plantar fasciitis or heel spur syndrome,” says Dr. Abelow.
What to Look For In a Summer Shoe
Dr. Abelow suggests that you look for sandals with a sole that doesn’t bend too much. A stiffer sole as well as straps that cross the foot will help distribute the pressure on your foot more evenly. The heel and arch will take some of the weight, so that the ball of your foot and its sensitive joints don’t receive the full impact of each step.
Orthotic inserts are an option, especially for flats, but are nearly impossible to wear with sandals, and the inserts you can find in the store aren't terrible, but they are not designed specifically for your own feet. The most technologically-advanced method of fitting your feet for orthotics is a scanner, which takes a digital imprint of your foot, including pressure points and arch height. Many different styles of orthotics are available to fit your lifestyle.
"In the end," concludes Dr. Abelow, “if you’re suffering in pain, you need to wear something more supportive, like a running shoe. If pain lasts for more than a few days, you should immediately seek help. Too many people with pain in their foot do nothing for weeks and [they end up with] a fracture.” If you expect to be doing lots of walking or standing, put the health of your feet first—before fashion—and step out into a pain-free summer.
If you're experiencing foot pain, or would like to explore options for orthotics, please give us at FlexPlus Physical Therapy & Balance Centers a call at 508-650-0060 for a free pain consultation in Natick or Southborough. At FlexPlus, we're With You Every Step of the Way.
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