December is best enjoyed in flip flops or better, barefoot in the beach sand. Make sure your feet are ready for it
Summer is in full swing, which means after many sock-and-boot-clad months, our feet are free at last. Cue beach visits, the feeling of sand in between our toes and the initial thrill of dipping your feet into ice-cold water. Give your feet the TLC they deserve and they’ll carry you into the festive season feeling confident and comfortable.
“Looking after our feet is as important as eating healthily and exercising,” says Lauren Brown, a podiatrist at Waterfall Sports Orthopaedic Surgery. Washing your feet thoroughly every day and drying them well, especially in between the toes, is necessary to avoid fungal infection, says Lauren who emphasises the importance of applying cream afterwards. Shes suggests using a Urea-containing cream, on clean, dry feet to avoid cracking. No cream in between the toes though; unless it’s an anti-fungal cream being used to treat infection.
Out and about
Many of us will be on the beach this season, and in communal places such as washing areas, Midrand-based podiatrist Tanya Garlick says it’s important not to walk barefoot as that’s how infections are transmitted. “When you’re coming off the beach and you want to rinse your feet under the showers or taps, keep your sandals or your slip slops on,” she says. This goes for gyms and hotels as well. “You may be staying in a five-star hotel, but it’s still a public area.”
If you’ll be wearing closed shoes, for instance while out on a run, Lauren suggests choosing running shoes with vents that ensure airflow to our feet to prevent the excessive moisture build-up that causes undesirable odours. And just because it’s hot, doesn’t mean you can abandon socks. Lauren recommends natural fibre socks with moisture-lock technology that wicks moisture away from the skin.
Flaunt your feet
For ladies especially, pretty nails shouldn’t be at the expense of the health of your feet. Lauren advises against gel or acrylic applications as they weaken the nail, and because they stay on so long, can incubate fungal infection. She recommends keeping normal lacquer on for no longer than two weeks and then giving your nails a two-week break before the next polish.
Something else Tanya says to be aware of in summer, is very dry, withered feet. According to her, wearing open shoes and walking around barefoot, can dry out the skin on your feet, causing your heels to crack. “Avoid long periods of time on your feet whilst wearing open shoes or going barefoot,” she says. “Rather wear closed shoes during this time. This will prevent heels from cracking.” So if you know you have a long and busy day ahead of you, opt for running shoes. But if you insist on sandals, Tanya recommends you wear shoes that elevate your heel by about 1cm above the ball of the foot.
Give your slops the slip
Most South Africans, particularly those who either live or regularly holiday near the sea, have at least one pair of flip-flops in their wardrobes. But podiatrists advise against the prolonged wearing of shoes that are completely flat as they don’t provide the necessary support or cushioning for our heels. Walking around in shoes like this for an entire day can actually cause injury to our muscles and bones.
Podiatrist Lauren Brown explains that feet are not designed to hold onto shoes the way flip-flops require. Rather, the shoe should hold the foot, she says. Save the flip-flops for the beach, around the pool, at the gym and on short trips.
WORDS Sungeni Mussa