Feet, flip-flops, fungus: How to take care of summer foot issues

Jul 7, 2013

Summertime means flip-flops, canvas and plastic shoes and maybe even going barefoot. But how do these summer footwear trends affect your health? This week on “Take Care,” we talk to Dr. Neal Blitz, chief of foot surgery and associate chairman of orthopedics at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital in New York City, about the risks our favorite shoes may cause us this summer.

Click 'Read More' to hear our interview with Dr. Neal Blitz.

It’s hard for some people to resist the urge to go barefoot when the weather gets warm -- whether it’s walking around the house or running out to grab the mail or outside in your backyard. Dr. Blitz said that going barefoot can be good for some people, because it allows the foot muscles, which are hard to use when wearing shoes, to get strong. However, Dr. Blitz says people with weak feet or existing conditions like a bunion or hammertoe, need to wear shoes to get support.

One of the most popular footwear trends during the summers is flip-flops. Dr. Blitz said they don’t offer support for your feet, which could be problematic if you have foot issues already. Wearing flip-flops can also lead to toe fractures because the toes are not protected. Dr. Blitz also advised against flip-flops with a heel which he says “don’t make sense altogether.”

When it comes to men’s footwear, Dr. Blitz recommends getting out of that formal dress shoe during the summer months and slipping into something that allows the foot to breathe, like canvas or real leather. However, if you opt for a synthetic leather shoe, your feet won’t be able to breath as well, so he says you should wear a cotton sock to help absorb moisture.

In general, Dr. Blitz says everyone should try to wear shoes that are open, at least open-toe during warm weather, so feet can breathe as much as possible.

Pedicures are very popular in the summertime, but Dr. Blitz warns that continual use of nail polish can discolor the nail. He also says he has seen nail polish on his patients make fungus in a toenail worse.

Foot fungus grows in environments that have moisture. And plastic shoes, another popular choice during the summer, tend to make your feet moist, Dr. Blitz said. And foot fungus is a cause of the dreaded foot odor. Dr. Blitz gave us these tips to avoid foot odor this summer:

  1. Keep your feet dry: foot odor develops in a wet foot, so be sure to dry them off after they get wet.
  2. Clean between your toes: that’s where the fungus will start so wash with a washcloth and exfoliate.
  3. Try an antiperspirant: this will control the sweat in your feet, which leads to odor.
  4. Use a powder: powders can dry out your feet so they don’t smell.
  5. Rotate your shoes: try not to wear the same shoes every day, and if you wear sneakers, remember to wash them often.

One last thing Dr. Blitz tells patients to avoid is what he calls beach feet, which is when the foot gets sunburned. If you’re going outside, remember to put sunblock on your feet.