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Summer Foot Health

Posted Date: 6/25/2012

Summer is here! But fun in the sun may bring some unwelcome foot problems. Here's what you need to know to stay healthy:

Are flip flops a healthy summer footwear option?

Can’t wait to break out your flip flops and hit the beach this summer? Dr. Douglas Campbell, Director of Podiatry, warns that they’re not the best choice and can potentially cause damage to your feet. “Flip flops offer little arch support or protection, and your foot doesn’t fit securely in them,” states Dr. Campbell. “You could get blisters or toenail injuries, which can be painful for the average person, but deadly for someone who’s diabetic.”

You won’t just get external injuries either – Dr. Campbell cautions that flip flops can lead to pinched nerves, heel pain and tendonitis. “Wearing flip flops also forces the toes to grip around the thong when you walk, increasing the likelihood of developing hammer toe and bunions.” Instead of flip flops, Dr. Campbell recommends wearing sandals that offer built-in arch support and strap around the foot instead of between the toes.

Did you know that you can donate lightly-used footwear to a great cause? Dr. Campbell runs an organization called Footwear for the World, which provides foot care and shoes to people in the Dominican Republic who are in need. If you’d like to donate your new or lightly-used shoes, please deposit them in the blue bins at the following locations:

  • 4801 Ft. Hamilton Parkway, on the corner of 48th St.
  • 948 48th St., between 9th and 10th Avenues 

Should you worry about getting skin cancer on your feet?

While we’re told to use SPF and stay covered this summer to protect ourselves against the harmful effects of the sun, we often forget about one part of our bodies – our feet.

Melanoma is a skin cancer that starts in the cells of your body that contain melanin, which produce pigment or color. “While melanomas most often develop in areas that have sun exposure, such as your arms, back or face, they can also occur in areas that don’t receive as much sun exposure,” states Dr. Susan Burdette-Radoux, Maimonides Oncologist and Hematologist. “It can appear on the soles of your feet, palms, between your toes and even under the nail.”
This is a special type of melanoma, called an acral lentiginous melanoma, which tends to be more aggressive. Most people don’t think to check for melanoma in areas of the skin that aren’t exposed to much sunlight, so by the time melanoma of the foot is diagnosed, it may have progressed to an advanced stage.

Dr. Burdette-Radoux recommends following the American Cancer Society’s “ABCD rule” to help distinguish a normal mole from melanoma. If you’ve found a mole with any of the following characteristics, speak to your physician:

  • Asymmetry: The two halves of a mole do not match.
  • Border irregularity: The edges of the mole are ragged and uneven.
  • Color: Differing shades of tan, brown or black and sometimes patches of red, blue or white.
  • Diameter: The mole is wider than a quarter inch in size.

“I recommend that people should also add ‘E’ for evolution and change,” notes Dr. Burdette-Radoux. “Any change in a mole should be brought to the attention of a dermatologist, so it can be properly diagnosed.” 

Can I badly burn my feet at the beach?

Occasionally people with bad sunburns may find themselves in the ER. This can occur when people lather up with sunscreen on their bodies, but forget their feet. However, Dr. John Marshall, Chair of Emergency Medicine, warns that it’s not just the sun that beach goers have to worry about when it comes to their feet.

“What’s more likely to land you in the ER is accidently stepping into the coals of a beach fire or barbecue that’s not completely put out,” he states. To put out a bonfire, many people smother flames or coals with sand. However, if they’re not careful, the coals can still be hot the next day and are masked by a light layer of sand. “While adults are at risk, children are most likely to accidentally get burned in this way as they play on the beach,” notes Dr. Marshall.

There are three levels of burns:

  • First-degree: Causes pain, redness, and swelling. “You can treat these with general antibiotic ointment and a pain reliever,” states Dr. Marshall
  • Second-degree: Causes pain, redness, swelling, and blistering. “After flushing the burn, cover it with a dry, sterile bandage,” asserts Dr. Marshall. He also stresses that you should never pop a blister because you can increase your risk of infection. Instead, see your doctor for treatment.
  • Third-degree: Causes white or blackened, charred skin that may be numb. “It would be rare for this accident to result in a burn of this degree,” explains Dr. Marshall, “however, it’s important to note that these types of burns require immediate medical attention.”

If you have an extensive or major burn, you should be able to get basic burn care in any Emergency Room. Physicians will be able to treat you and determine if you need to go to a specialty burn center depending on the severity of your wounds.


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