By Hannah Ferguson M.OMSc. B.Sc. Osteopathic Practitioner
We are halfway through summer and with this hot weather came a big changes in footwear. It is not uncommon that as the seasons change from Spring to Summer that we start seeing more patients complaining of foot pain as you've slipped into a pair of shoes that have been dormant in your closet for too many months. And nothing is worse than having your summer adventures interrupted by foot pain! But whether you have foot pain or not, choosing the right pair of footwear for your needs is important.
You will probably find that you’re not wearing as supportive shoes as you did in the colder months – opting more to go barefoot or to just slide on a pair of sandals or flip-flops when going outside. If you have healthy feet, this shouldn’t be much of an issue... however even for healthy feet, it can get stressful for your feet and knees not to have any arch support for a long period of time. Especially if you have a tendency for "flat feet." So here are some tips when considering what summer shoes to wear on your feet!
What do you look for when considering summer sandals?
If you’re asking what kind of open toe shoe is best to wear on your feet for summer, I will always recommend a sandal that has a heel strap and a bit of a cupped heel. With any kind of shoe, you want your heel to feel secured and supported in the shoe. Just be realistic about what you are going to be doing in a day and whether your footwear is appropriate for that adventure - or bring multiple pairs of shoes with you if you are not sure.
Flip flops with straps only across the front part of your or “foot-thongs” (where the strap is between your big toe and second toe) tend to make you shuffle your feet and take smaller steps while you walk rather than taking proper strides to try and keep the shoe more securely on your foot. Any change in gait (the way you walk) can bother your body over time if it is not easy on the body.
Do you need new summer shoes or sandals?
It’s important to consider how old your summer shoes are. Many soft-soled sandals (like Birkenstocks) will feel comfortable at first, however the more you wear those shoes the more you can start to imprint a wear-pattern into them that no longer supports a healthy foot position. This wear-pattern starts to “feed” or reinforce a problematic position of your feet which can contribute to foot, knee, and sometimes back pain.
If you have grooves worn into the sole of your foot or if you look at the bottom of your shoes and the tread of the shoe has worn away – it is time for a new pair of shoes. You do not want to realize that you need a new pair of shoes after you have slipped off a rock because the grip on your shoes has been worn away! Also make sure that the front part of your foot has room to be free – your toes should not be going off the edge of your shoe or be squished. If you have wide feet – it can sometimes be tough to find the right shoe but it is important to put the effort into finding a well-fitted shoe.
What do you do if you're having pain?
There are a couple very easy things to do at home if you are starting to notice heel or foot pain.
First, since we tend to be barefoot inside the house and wear more casual un-supportive footwear throughout the day, the first thing to do is to get yourself in a pair of supportive, comfortable shoes (most often running shoes), and be consistent in wearing them both inside and outside the house as much as possible.
Second, look for a tennis or lacrosse ball somewhere in your house and use it to massage the bottom of your feet. Any kind of ball should work that has a smooth surface and has a little bit of bounce to it - I typically find a baseball too hard, a golf ball is too hard and too small. Sit down on a chair and spend 2-3 minutes on each foot in the morning and evening massaging the entire surface area of the bottom of the foot. Focus more specific circles in the heel, arch, and under the ball of your foot. You can also use the ball to massage your feet after a walk or outing if you are having increased pain after the activity.
If your foot pain is persisting or is chronic (lasting more than 3 months), do not give up trying to resolve it. Feet are complicated, and it may be time to have your feet assessed by a professional, or multiple professionals. Manual therapy and osteopathic treatment are extremely helpful for foot pain and can be very helpful for those who typically rely on orthotics or can help you decide whether orthotics are a worthwhile investment. You may not want to feel restricted from wearing sandals or flip flops (at least for brief outings) and osteopathic treatment can help give your feet more freedom from your supportive shoes.
If you have any questions or concerns about foot pain or footwear, do not hesitate to get in touch with the clinic. We have massage and physio therapists as well as osteopathic practitioners who can help with your foot woes.