By Brian K. Bailey, D.P.M., Body-Mind-Spirit Podiatric Care
If your daydreams have recently turned to thoughts of warm sun, sandy beaches and mouse-themed amusement parks, join the club. It might still be winter, but spring break is just around the corner.
For some, however, those dreams may be clouded by concerns about your ability to keep up with the kids and the foot pain they sometimes experience. The good news is, there are things you can and should do, beginning right now, to get your feet spring-break ready.
Get the right shoes
When selecting a shoe, there are a few key elements to keep in mind, with flexibility being an important issue. Contrary to popular opinion, flexible, bendable shoes are not always the best choice (think flip- flops and ballet flats). The thought is these shoes don’t restrict the foot and allow for a more natural gait. In truth, most people find they have more problems when they wear flexible-soled shoes.
Simply put, flexible shoes don’t support your feet properly, forcing your muscles and tendons in your feet and lower legs to work harder. This can cause fatigue, cramping, pain, inflammation and even injury. You demand a lot from your feet: let’s make it easier for them to deliver. Pick a shoe with a firmer sole that provides stability and support.
Next, look for a sole with built-in cushion. Squeeze the heel of the shoe to test how much “give” there is. If the sole gives, it is a good indicator that it will absorb some of the shock caused by walking. Check out the hangtags and packaging that come with the shoes. Words to look for include gel, air, cushion, spring. Proper cushioning will provide stability, while absorbing impact and reducing the stress on your ankles, knees and back.
Check out the foot bed and liner. Many shoes are designed so you can remove the insole and replace it with an over-the-counter insert or a custom orthotic. Footsteps brand makes an accommodative insert with a layer of plastazote that absorbs impact and a firm arch support to reduce the pressure on your heel and the ball of your foot.
If you have been experiencing foot problems and have tried over-the-counter supports with no success, talk to your podiatrist about an orthotic.
Both “stock” orthotics and custom-made inserts are available that can provide better alignment of your feet, ankles and knees, providing a more natural gait.
You may be surprised to learn that many insurance plans will pay for a pair of custom orthotics once a year, as prescribed by a specialist. Be sure to ask your podiatrist now so there will be time to discuss, design and order them before your trip.
Having the right pair of shoes, along with necessary inserts or orthotics, will help you navigate any terrain you might encounter on your trip – cobblestone, sand, brick streets, or even a dirt path.
Sock it to me!
There is a lot more to socks than just fashion. Unfortunately, most people give little to no thought about socks, nor do they understand how a well-designed and padded sock can increase foot comfort. Look for socks that have extra padding in the heel and the ball of the foot, are made of reinforced stretchy material to support the arch, and that include synthetic fibers to wick moisture away from the feet.
Of course, if you are diabetic or have other chronic conditions that can affect the feet, your needs will be different. Be sure to talk with your podiatrist about the right socks to both support and protect your feet on your adventures.
Other gear to take
If your vacation involves a trip to the beach or a water park where you might have to use a common shower, or you will be using the hotel pool or spa, consider throwing a pair of flip-flops into your bag and wear them when using common facilities. They can help you avoid a fungal infection.
Despite your best preparations, your feet will probably hurt after a long day of walking. So pack an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium). Take it as directed along with your evening meal to help reduce the inflammation while you are sleeping. Do not take anti-inflammatories on an empty stomach as they can cause bleeding and ulcers.
If you take blood thinners or have certain medical conditions, be sure to follow your doctor’s advice. In these cases, acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) is a safer alternative.
Time to move
It is foolhardy to take off on an adventure without first testing your gear. Wear your sock and shoe combination regularly for at least two weeks before you leave. Make sure there are no areas that rub your feet and cause blisters. If tweaks need to be made, it is a lot easier to do it at home than in the middle of a 6-mile day.
You need to get your body ready, too. If you anticipate walking a lot on asphalt or concrete, work on your flexibility. This will help you absorb the impact of these hard surfaces. Take 15 minutes a day to do some lower extremity stretches – you can find these online. Start your workout at least four weeks in advance of your trip.
Schedule a visit with your podiatrist
If you have a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes, or you’ve been receiving treatment for plantar fasciitis or another foot condition, or you have a foot problem that you’ve just been hoping will go away, now’s the time to schedule visit with your foot specialist. A checkup is a good idea before you go on vacation. Be sure to address ingrown toenails, athlete’s foot, toenail fungus or other problems. If you typically have your nails trimmed by the podiatrist, get that taken care of, too.
Have a foot problem that’s keeping you from getting the most out of life – and spring break? Call my office at (606) 324-FOOT to schedule an appointment. My office is conveniently located at 500 14th St. in Ashland, at the intersection with Central Avenue.
Body Mind Spirit Podiatric Center
500 14th Street, Ashland, Kentucky, 41101
Phone (606) 324-FOOT