So here I am on “Fall Break” Vacation and some things came to mind about your feet while I take a load off of mine. So, let’s talk about some of these issues.
Spending the week at a beach can be hard on your feet that’s for sure. Let’s talk about some of the things you may encounter. I had a gentleman ask me about the pain in his heels and he said how odd it was that it would get worse on vacation. He had been doing the beach life for the last 2 weeks and was now on to his third week. I glanced at his feet and I note that he is barefoot and nearby is a set of flip flop type sandals. The pool surround is concrete of course. Just from this information alone, I surmise he probably has plantar fasciitis. This diagnosis can be broken down simply to the plantar fascia, aka the large band of ligament type tissue on the bottom of the foot, and itis or inflammation. This disorder is an overuse injury resulting in inflammation where it attaches to the heel bone. It’s usually self-limited but must be treated appropriately and diligently. This gentleman hadn’t started treatment before vacation and It was made worse by the act of going barefoot all day every day for the last few weeks. Unfortunately, the flip flops this gentleman was wearing on the side don’t help either. Think of it this way; it’s like having a broken bone in your foot or even your arm but letting it go untreated, not wearing a cast or walking boot. You wouldn’t do that because you know your bones won’t heal if they don’t stop moving. Neither does the plantar fascia heal if you don’t mechanically support it. Additionally, while we all know a little sand between the toes is most certainly a cure for many a thing, it is NOT necessarily a cure for plantar fasciitis pain. In fact, you go out walking on the beach, you engage more muscles than you do on nice even paths. So now, your feet, the muscles in the feet, the ligaments in the feet, and the muscles of the lower leg are working overtime. But you’re supposed to be on vacation, so why are you overworking your legs and feet? The answer is good supportive shoes, arch supports, and maintaining the flexibility of those same muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Yes, even if you are on vacation. Give your feet a break too. Do not overwork them just because you get to go on a vacation. Now, I’m no flip flop hater but my recommendation during this acute inflammatory phase is to “shoe up”.
Another beach problem you may encounter are sand burrs. Know where you’re walking, and try to wear shoes. I had a patient in my office a couple of months ago who stated that she thought she might have a burr in her toe. She had been in Florida, was responsible and wore shoes almost all the time until one day, she was coming up from the beach and didn’t have time to put them on when a wasp started flying around her. She took off at a run to get up to the pool deck, shoes in hand and as she came off the sand to the decking, she encountered a sand burr. Worse than that, it had been there for over a year! It wasn’t infected but she was tired of dealing with the discomfort of the enlarging mass. There were no signs of infection thankfully so we decided to cut it out. The sand burr could not be found but there was a massive encapsulated mass on the bottom of the big toe. Unfortunately, the body decided to wall off the burr when it couldn’t be retrieved or let loose resulting in unrelenting pain. We took it out easily and she healed up great. She was so thankful she told her friend who was with her that fateful day and doesn’t live in the area, to go and get hers cut out by her doctor as well. Sand burrs are small and sometimes almost unavoidable. When you or your kids, or your friends are on a beautiful sandy beach, remember, that without shoes, your feet are completely unprotected.
How about sunburns? We all know we should wear sunblock. But most people put it on the face, shoulders, chest and back. What about your feet? The tops of your feet are at a disadvantage. The entire surface faces up to the sun but oftentimes they are neglected as they don’t get the blocking lotion applied to their surface. The result is redness, blistering and pain if your sunburn is bad enough. Overexposed skin is at high risk of cancerous lesions down the road.
Protect your feet. It’s that simple. How else do you get from point A to point B?