Sweat. Street gook. Fungus. Summertime is not always good times when it comes to your feet. It can all add up to some major foot health issues, not to mention making your peds unsightly when all you want to do is show them off. Here, we tapped a few foot pros to help give us the inside track of what all that fun in the sun is doing to our feet. Read on to get the scoop, and learn how to keep your hardest working extremity in tip-top shape.
"Heat and humidity can lead to yeast and fungal infections such as athlete's foot," says Francesca Fusco, a dermatologist in NYC. Before slipping into a pair of closed toe shoes, make sure to wipe away water post shower, or if you were in another pair and feet are damp, first. "Thoroughly dry in between toes where moisture accumulates," she says. "Plus, nails should be kept short to avoid moisture accumulation underneath, too."
And, of course, there's that universal summer problem: sweating. Because it's a gazillion degrees out — and just like you can be dripping everywhere else, feet aren't immune to getting hot. "Hyperhidrosis on feet is a big problem for many women," says Fusco, who adds that she injects Botox into feet to prevent excessive sweating and sliding. For those who don't have an extreme case or it only happens here and there, apply a prescription strength antiperspirant after you shower right before bed, she says, then slip socks on, she says. (Just like how it can stop water works under arms, it can do the same for sweat glands on feet, too.)
Feel like you have more callouses when warm weather strikes? You aren't imagining things. "Ill-fitting shoes, excessive walking, or genetics may pre-dispose to calloused feet on soles, toes, ankles, Achilles tendon, or tops of feet," says Fusco, who suggests using a salicylic acid pad to help break down dead skin cells nightly, or, if it’s a bigger issue that is causing pain, try a pro microdermabrasion treatment to remove several layers without harming skin. Also, choose your shoe style wisely: Avoid any straps, especially those that are stiff and not made of soft material, and those that hit right along your bones or high points of your feet, suggests Hillary B. Brenner, DPM, a podiatric surgeon in NYC and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association. "Not only will they rub more on those areas, because heat and humidity can cause feet to swell — typically around a half a size — it can be worse when it's very hot."
Uneven tone and blotchy pigment may not only be a complexion concern: "I am seeing increasing numbers of women who complain about uneven tone on the tops of their feet," says Fusco. "This can happen naturally from exposure to UV light, or as a result of excessive friction (strappy sandals, new shoes, etc.)." Remember to slather feet with broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen, just like the rest of your skin, and apply a pigment reducing treatment along the tops before bed (look for melanin inhibitors such as hydroquinone, kojic acid, or niacinimide).
Meanwhile, the type of summer shoe you run around in can have a major effect on how your feet look and feel. Switching from flat flip flop with zero support to sky high wedges every day can wreak havoc on your feet, says Brenner. "I have a lot of patients come in during the summer with severe Achilles tendon pain," she says. "When you have high heels on, it's in a flexed position, which stretches it out. So, then if you go to a sandal, it's dramatically shortened, which causes a pain in the calf muscles as well as the Achilles." Find a middle ground in terms of elevation — and alternate between the three to minimize the shock to your feet, she says. Try stretches when you get home, like a classic low lunge runner's stretch to lengthen the entire back of the leg down to your Achilles; or pick up a small hand towel off the floor using your toes ("This strengthens all the muscles and ligaments and tendons in your foot," says Brenner.)
Just like your Citi Bike, your flip-flops have a time limit, too. Luckily, it's a little longer (around three hours, says Brenner). "They have absolutely no structure or support — around the beach or pool is one thing, but going all over the city in them is not good for your feet at all." Instead try to wear legit shoes (like sneakers) as much as possible or at least a shoe with an actual arch or a wide chunky heel, she says. And if all else fails, fake it with an arch pad, like Foot Petals Amazing Arches.
Then, of course, there’s the practically walking barefoot all over the city issue, which is kind of ironic since most people won’t even touch the subway pole with their bare hands. Brenner says to rinse feet with soap and water when you get home at night, just as you would your hands, and if you’ve got a little extra time, soak them in Epsom salt, too. Or, add a little to your shower gel and do a quickie rinse in the shower. "It contains magnesium sulfate to ease muscle and nerve pain, so it helps with aches, plus it lessens swelling and can help with any infection as well as soften callouses."
And don’t forget to give the skin on your feet TLC, too. Apply a body or foot cream all over every day, which can keep callouses in check just by restoring basic moisture levels. Try Dr. Brenner’s RX Hydration Cream, then put your feet up. It is summer after all.