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How to keep feet and ankles in tip top shape this summer

Experts offer tips for you and your family

How to keep feet and ankles in tip top shape this summer

Summer fun and chores alike come with potential hazards to feet. According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, here’s how to protect feet and ankles from the most common seasonal hazards:

Be DIY Safe

DIY projects like power washing, roofing and decking require ramped up safety measures. Always wear closed-toed shoes with traction to prevent injuries, splinters, puncture wounds and falls. Mowing can be particularly hazardous. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates more than 37,000 Americans suffer a power mower-related injury annually.

“Lawnmower blades whirl at 3,000 revolutions per minute. Yet we see patients who’ve been hurt operating a mower barefoot,” said Matthew Dairman, DPM, FACFAS, a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon and a Fellow Member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS). “Foot injuries range from dirty, infection-prone lacerations to severed tendons to amputated toes. People need to take lawn mowing safety seriously because the injuries can, indeed, be very serious.”

To avoid becoming a statistic, follow these sensible guidelines:

  • Don’t mow a wet lawn. Losing control from slipping on rain-soaked grass is the leading cause of foot injuries caused by power mowers.
  • Wear heavy shoes or work boots—no sneakers or sandals.
  • Never pull a running mower backward.
  • Keep the clip bag attached during operation to prevent projectile injuries.
  • Use a mower with a release mechanism that automatically shuts it off when hands let go.
  • Always keep children away during mowing.
  • If an accident occurs, even a minor one, consult a foot and ankle surgeon right away.
Wear Sunscreen

Many people skip their feet when applying sunscreen, but did you know that the skin on your feet is highly susceptible to melanoma? In fact, it’s the most diagnosed and fatal site of this form of skin cancer. Other types of skin cancer can also be found on the foot, including squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma. To keep your feet safe this summer:

  • Lather up with sunscreen from head to toe—literally.
  • Check your feet and toes regularly for abnormal looking moles or freckles, even under toenails and on your soles. Promptly schedule an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon to have suspicious marks examined.
  • Schedule routine exams so your foot and ankle surgeon can track suspicious, changing marks. Early detection is key.
Limit Flimsy Footwear

While it’s nice to let feet breathe in flip flops and they’re a great choice for locker rooms and pools to avoid fungus and athlete’s foot, they shouldn’t be your main footwear of choice all summer. Flip flops lack arch support and stability, so wearing them too often can cause stress on the plantar fascia—the band of tissue extending from the heel to the base of the toes. This can result in plantar fasciitis, causing heel pain upon getting up in the morning and after inactivity. To avoid developing issues, which can take a long time to treat and subside, consider wearing structured sandals with proper shock absorption and arch support. If you can’t live without flip flops, wear them sparingly to keep your feet in good shape. And if you’ll be traveling, pack tennis shoes for sightseeing, hikes and other weight-bearing activities.

Be Mindful of Diabetes

People living with diabetes should never go barefoot, because their nervous system may not “feel” an injury and their circulatory system will struggle to heal breaks in the skin.

“Most patients living with diabetes know they shouldn’t walk barefoot but can be more inclined to disregard this precaution in summer. However third-degree burns on the soles of feet can occur in a matter of minutes,” says Dr. Dairman.

This summer, be smart. Take care of your feet so they take care of you. If you suffer a foot and ankle injury this summer, visit FootHealthFacts.org for valuable foot and ankle health information and to find a physician near you.

(State Point)

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