After months of toughing it out through those Minnesota winters it is natural to get excited to finally take advantage of the nice warm weather. Trading in the snow boots and 3 pairs of socks for some stylish sandals and flip flops, and for the ladies some flats and high heels, is very tempting. Unfortunately style and function rarely go together when it comes to springtime and summertime footwear.

Sandals, flip flops, high heels and flats will actually increase your risk for foot pain, toe and foot deformities, ankle sprains, and even knee, hip or low back pain. These injuries can happen because of the lack of arch support, poor shock absorption when you step, and not having enough room for your foot to move properly. Wearing high heels puts your foot in an unnatural position, leading to too much pressure through your big toe. This can lead to toe pain, bunions, blisters, hammer toes, or claw toes. Wearing shoes with poor support or shoes that put your feet in an improper position can also lead to plantar fasciitis, a condition where the structures in the supportive part of your foot get tight and inflamed, leading to severe foot and heel pain.

In order to prevent injury to our feet, legs and back it is important to know what to look for when purchasing and choosing shoes. Shoes with proper arch support are key, allowing the foot to move through the walking cycle properly and safely. A physical therapist can help evaluate your foot structure to determine the proper arch support and shoe style that would work best for you. Another thing to consider is making sure your shoes are the right size. We may think we have the right size shoe, but many people wear the wrong size leading to pain and dysfunction. You can be measured and fit for your foot length and width when purchasing new shoes. When purchasing shoes, try bending the toe part of the shoe up, this area should bend fairly easily showing you the shoe will has proper flexibility to allow the toes to bend as we walk. However, if you can bend the whole shoe in half, that shows you the lack of support and stability in that shoe and is not proper footwear. Lastly, it is important to have enough room for your toes at the top of your shoe, or the toe box, to make sure the toes do not get compressed. This can lead to bunions, compression through our small joints, blisters and neuromas.

It can be unrealistic to think that we can go through the summer without once wearing flip flops, flats, or a fun pair of high heels. However, it is very important to minimize the time we spend in shoes that are wrong for our feet and can potentially result in pain and dysfunction in our feet, knees, hips and back. If you will be spending a lot of time outside on your feet it is better to reach for a good pair of supportive tennis shoes to keep you safe and comfortable throughout the day. Another option is wearing supportive sandals or flip flops with arch support built into the shoe, such as the brand SOLE, which is now available for purchase through In Touch Physical Therapy. These sandals have more supportive structures, are stylish, functional, and have arch supports. Your therapist at In Touch Physical Therapy are also trained to fit you for ALINE orthotics, inserts that fit into your shoes to give you the proper support you need.

Stay safe and healthy this summer with proper shoes with good support! Your feet will thank you! If you do however end up with pain or questions about your footwear, contact In Touch Physical Therapy today to schedule an appointment.

Dr. Hannah Andersen is a physical therapist at In Touch Physical Therapy.

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