Summer Feet


- Aired Sun Jul 07, 2013
- Aired Sun Jul 07, 2013

Health and Wellness: Summer Feet Transcript

Hi!  I’m Lorraine Rapp and I’m Linda Lowen.  Welcome to Take Care, a weekly conversation on health and wellness produced by WRVO Public Media.

On today’s show if the warm weather has you kicking off your shoes and walking barefoot or wearing light-weight footwear like flip-flops, it may feel good but you may be putting your feet, ankles and toes at risk.  We’ll find the right fit for summer foot health and safety from a renowned foot surgeon.

Oh, the carefree joys of summer!  Kicking off your shoes, walking barefoot in the sand or on the grass.  Throwing caution and foot support to the wind.

I’d wear my sandals, not the rubber ones but the leather ones.  Cheap runners.  High heels.  Open-toed shoes.

I generally wear what they would call a better quality of flip-flops.  Sneakers are good too.  Sandals for walking round the beach and stuff like that.

I wear a lot of sandals.

HOST:  We may love our light-weight flip-flops, our plastic clogs and wearing shoes without socks.

But, with freedom comes a price!  Foot fungus, sprained ankles, broken toes.  Knee, hip and back pain.  All can result from poor summer footwear choices.

Our next guest has advice on maintaining summer foot health.  Dr. Neal Blitz is Chief of Foot Surgery and Associate Chairman of Orthopedics at Bronx Lebanon Hospital in New York.

Dr. Blitz developed the bunionplasty procedure and is an authority on foot and ankle surgery.  He maintains a private practice in Manhattan.

Welcome to Take Care Dr. Blitz!

DR. BLITZ:  Thank You!  It’s a pleasure to be back.

HOST:  One of the true pleasures of warm weather is ditching those shoes and socks, walking barefoot around the house or to the mailbox or grabbing something in the back yard with no shoes on.

Outside of the concern of stepping on something sharp, is walking barefoot really bad for us?

DR. BLITZ:  Walking barefoot can actually be good for you because it allows the feet muscles of the foot to get strong and those muscles a lot of times aren’t used in a shoe.

The place where walking barefoot can be a problem is if you have a weak foot or a foot with problems such as bunions or hammertoes because those types of feet tend to need the support.

HOST:  If it feels good when you are doing it, does that mean it cannot be bad for you?

DR. BLITZ:  Pain in general is not a good thing.  So if you are having pain that is a good indicator that it is probably a problem.  Too often I find, at least in my practice, a lot of women forcing themselves into shoes that just don’t feel right and they are also too small for their feet.  That creates the problems such as bunions and hammertoes.

HOST:   So, the next step up, I guess of no support are flip-flops, which we want to talk to you about and for the person that feels comfortable wearing flip-flops.  I know some people need the arch support and to those people they may not feel good wearing flip-flops.  But if it feels okay and nothing is hurting are you still doing damage by wearing flip-flops or is it okay?

DR. BLITZ:  Every summer people always talk about flip-flops and the same question always comes up – are flip-flops really bad for your feet?

Flip-flops are not exactly bad for you feet but they are not exactly good for your feet.  What does that mean?  I mean there is no support from flip-flops.  Again that is not necessarily a problem unless you have a foot with problems.  If you have things like bunions, hammertoes and flatfeet not having that support can be an issue.

I think you really need to know your foot and your foot type.  That will guide you whether you can be wearing flip-flops or not.

HOST:  I would also think too though that if you wear a sandal that is open toed, a foot bed is a little more structured and rigid in a shoe but in a flip-flop it is soft and I know I have kicked against things wearing flip-flops and “ouch” – there is no protection on my toes.

DR. BLITZ:  That’s definitely true.  One of the other things we see in the summertime is a lot of toe fractures for that reason.  Forget about people walking barefooted at home and kicking the night stand.  A lot of times with flip-flops your foot really is unprotected and a lot of time the fifth toe (the baby toe or pinkie toe) will get pushed up against something and it will actually break.

HOST:  Once you have experienced that, and I’ve experienced it, it is amazing how much you are compromised when your pinkie toe is not working.

What other types of summer footwear, for both men and women, are problems?

DR. BLITZ:  In general the summer is a time of vacation.  What I usually say is that it is a time to avoid those types of shoes that you wear normally throughout the year and just change your habits to allow your foot a break.

I tell women to avoid high heels and go to flats.  If you are going to wear the flip-flops, please ladies do not wear the flip-flops with the heels because that just doesn’t make sense all together.

For men what I encourage them to do is to get out of the dress show and try to get into a canvas-type shoe that allows the foot to breathe some.

HOST:  What about the plastic shoe that is widely popular in the summer?  Is there any problem because there is not a lot of air moving through your bare foot?  You might be sweating too much and possibly causing a skin problem?

DR. BLITZ:  The skin problem you are referring to is a foot fungus.  The plastic shoe itself is not a problem but it is the moisture that is created in the plastic shoe and that will increase your chances of developing a foot fungus because fungi like to live in areas of moisture such as the shower or again in a shoe.  So, if your feet sweat, you may be subseptale to developing a foot fungus.

As far as plastic shoes go, if you really want to wear them, I recommend that you try doing things to decrease the amount of sweating that you have in them.  One thing that you may want to do is use a powder to absorb the moisture.

HOST:  If you are just joining us, you are listening to Take Care, a weekly conversation on health and wellness on WRVO Public Media.

I’m Linda Lowen and I’m Lorraine Rapp.  We are talking with Dr. Neal Blitz about summer footwear and protecting our feet.

We just discussed plastic shoes.  Is it possible that there are safe synthetics that breathe or at least allow a little air transfer so you don’t have those problems?

DR. BLITZ:  In general you want to try to wear open-toed shoes and sandals during the summer.  That will just help your foot breathe in general.  Forget about what the shoe is made of; just try to wear some open-toed shoes.

Also, if you need to wear leather, I would switch to real leather shoes rather than synthetic because real leather have pores and that can allow for the shoe to breathe.   Also if you are going to wear a synthetic which does not allow a lot of breathing, I recommend that you wear cotton socks as that will also absorb moisture.

HOST:  One of the problems that I encounter is wearing shoes that I got for a good price.  They could be Espadrilles or have that Espadrille bottom or canvas.  What happens is they stretch out in a short amount of time and you find that you are straining your toes to keep them even on your foot as you are walking.  I imagine that an ill-fitting shoe is also a problem.

DR. BLITZ:  Yes.  Shoes that don’t fit well can definitely create a problem.  Again, in my practice many women try to fit into shoes that are small and I don’t really understand the psychology of that completely.  It is a cute shoe and they want their foot to look smaller.

HOST:  Well no, they didn’t have them in their size and they loved the shoe!  That’s the psychology there!  They don’t get the right size because it is not available and they are just going to stuff in their foot and talk themselves into walking around the house and hoping the shoes stretch.

DR. BLITZ:  One of the problems that I see is that if the shoe is too small it will force the toes into a very unnatural position and that unnatural position a lot of times creates bunions and hammertoes, the very things that women don’t want.

HOST:  Another thing that women don’t want and I will say I seem to think that men suffer from it more but maybe I’m being sexist – foot odor.  It does occur and it seems that we are more aware of it in the summer because people do kick off their shoes.  What can we do to deal with foot odor from sweating?

DR. BLITZ:  Nobody likes smelly shoes – not you, not your friends, not your family, not your pet and not your partner.

What I usually recommend are six things:

  1. You want to keep your feet dry to avoid the bacteria from forming on the foot as the fungus can radiate smell.
  2. I recommend that you clean between your toes.  It sounds simple but not so simple.  A lot of people don’t really think about getting deep in between their toes and a lot of time bacteria will collect there.  It’s called toe jam for a reason.
  3.  You really want to wash your feet and you want to use a washcloth to exfoliate a little bit.  Dead skin cells during the summer can actually have a smell to them.
  4. If you have sweaty feet, you want to consider using an antiperspirant.  Again, if your feel sweat that can cause a smell.
  5. Use powder on your feet and within the shoes.
  6.  Rotate your shoes and if you wear sneakers you want to wash them frequently.

HOST:  I had a quick question about toenail polish.  People keep it on week after week, especially when you are wearing sandals.  Is there any danger to that?

DR. BLITZ:  What I see with toenail polish is the toenail can become severely discolored and sometimes that is permanent.  I’ve seen that happen.  It can also create ridges in the toenail over a long period of time.  I don’t know if there is any real danger to that but you can wind up with a sort of deformed or disfigured nail.

Sometimes, too, we see fungus in the toenail and a lot of times people use the toenail polish to hide the fungus.  That is of itself sort of a viscous cycle because it only creates more problems down the road because the toenail itself can’t breathe and allows for more problems.

HOST:  Dr. Blitz we just have a couple of seconds left.  Are there any other seasonal foot problems that we should be aware of?

DR. BLITZ:  Yes, it’s summertime so you want to avoid what I call “beach foot.”  Beach foot is a burnt foot from the sun.  When you are at the beach and you are putting sun block on, please, please, please use sun block on your feet.

HOST:  That is something I’ve never heard of before but now I will never forget!

Thank you so much Dr. Blitz.  It was a pleasure to talk with you.

DR. BLITZ:  You’re welcome.  Thank you!

HOST:  Dr. Neal Blitz is Chief of Foot Surgery and Associate Chairman of Orthopedics at Bronx Lebanon Hospital in New York.

For more information on Dr. Blitz and summer foot health visit the Take Care web page at WRVO.org.

Coming up on next week’s show: What do your teeth and gums have to do with your overall health?  We will look at the link between oral health and physical health and well being with a dentist from the Mayo Clinic plus we will dive into the issue of public pools and water-borne illness with the head of the Healthy Swimming Program at the Center of Disease Control.

Thanks for spending this half hour with us.  If you have any questions or comments about the show today, email us at Take Care at WRVO.org.

This episode of Take Care is also available as a podcast on the WRVO website.

I’m Lorraine Rapp and I’m Linda Lowen.  Until next time Take Care~

Take Care is a production of WRVO Public Media, written and produced by Lorraine Rapp and Linden Lowen.  Edited and engineered by Leah Landry.  Catherine Loper is Executive Producer.  Support for Take Care comes from the Health Foundation for western and central New York.

The information presented on Take Care is offered for education and information purposes only and should not be construed as personal medical advice.  You should consult with your personal physician or caregiver regarding your own medical care.

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