Summer Is Coming
With Monday (5/28) being Memorial Day, we were curious about the holiday’s origins and found that it was actually only officially declared by the federal government back in 1967. The fact the holiday isn’t older was a bit surprising, although its roots go much further back.
The holiday we know and observe as Memorial Day started as Decoration Day – which was a specific day (May 30 in our northern states) to adorn the graves of U.S. soldiers. This day of remembrance was officially started in 1868.
(To give credit where credit is due, southern states had adopted their own Decoration Day a couple of years earlier.)
Of course, the practice of placing flowers on soldier’s graves is an ancient custom. Decoration Day was simply a matter of making it more formal.
And now you have a general understanding of this holiday’s history!
Even if you hadn’t previously been aware of Memorial Day’s history, you undoubtedly already knew this national holiday constitutes a time for all of us to remember and honor the courageous men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.
So on Monday, consider taking even just a couple of minutes out of the day to think about those who fell in combat or explain the importance of the holiday to your children or grandchildren.
In addition to being a day of reflection and contemplation, Memorial Day also constitutes the unofficial start of the summer season.
Here in West Michigan, this means it won’t be long now until classes are done, backyard barbecues are cooking, and our beaches full of local residents and community visitors!
Since we only have a finite amount of summer to enjoy, you really want to capitalize on it. As such, the last thing you need is a foot condition causing discomfort, irritation, pain, or even embarrassment.
That means you should spend a little time and effort now to switch your feet out of “winter mode.”
Getting feet ready for summer encompasses a couple of different areas. We’re talking about things like treating and/or preventing:
Dry feet. Sweat and oil production is decreased in the winter time, so your feet might be too dry at this point (and especially if you weren’t following a winter foot care regimen during our colder months). One of the best ways to rectify this is by using a heavy moisturizing cream or lotion every day.
For optimal efficacy, make sure you use moisturizer within five minutes after your shower or bath. This helps to lock in moisture and keep skin from drying too much.
Some moisturizing products you can buy off the shelf at the supermarket act as barriers – they keep your skin from receiving the natural moisturizers they need. You especially should avoid ones that are petroleum-based. Even better, however, is to use any of the moisturizing products we offer at our practice. After all, you know these ones are doctor-approved!
Ingrown toenails. Now, vacation and sports don’t necessarily cause ingrown toenails to develop, but this condition always seems to be worse before sports or vacation. That’s unfortunate because an ingrown nail can cause a lot of discomfort and pain. Even worse, though, it increases infection risk.
So what does this mean for you and your summer? Well, you should have ingrown toenails treated before any summer excursions and activities (so you can, you know, actually enjoy them…).
For optimal results—and reduced infection risk—come see us at the earliest possible opportunity.
Heel pain. When you walk on sand at Holland State Park, Tunnel Park, or any other local beach, your heel drops lower than it usually would. This places extra tension on the Achilles tendon and can potentially cause heel pain. One thing you can do to help mitigate the risk of heel pain ruining your summer is to really make sure you are following an appropriate stretching program.
Some stretches you may wish to use for preventing heel pain include:
- Achilles Tendon Stretch. Stand approximately a foot and a half in front of a wall with your hands on it. Place your left foot behind the right one so the toes touch the heel. Keeping your back leg straight, bend your front knee until you feel the stretch in your lower left leg. Hold for 10 seconds and then switch legs. Repeat two more times.
- Eccentric heel drop. Standing on the edge of a step (with only the toes and ball of foot making contact with the step) and facing the stairs, slowly lower both heels down, hold for 10 seconds, and then raise back up to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times.
- Plantar Fascia Stretch. Sit barefoot in a chair and place your foot over your knee. Using the hand on the same side as your foot, gently pull back on your toes until you feel a good stretch along the bottom of your foot. Hold for 10 seconds and then switch feet. Repeat two more times.
Don’t let a recurrent case of plantar fasciitis keep you from favorite summertime activities in West Michigan!
Athlete’s foot. As we finally get into the summer season, there’s a chance you might be experiencing the signature itching and burning sensations from athlete’s foot. Why is that? Because the odds are decent your feet have spent the past several months encased in socks and shoes.
If you hadn’t been wearing moisture-wicking, breathable footwear, your feet probably sweat a lot. This creates an environment fungi absolutely love. See, fungi need warm, damp, and dark areas to thrive. That is the exact description of a foot in socks.
Now, this problem can develop any time of year—and obviously has a high risk factor for our winter months—but it’s not one you want to have annoying you while spending time with friends and/or family on a nice, warm summer night here in West Michigan!
The good news is that over-the-counter foot sprays for athlete’s foot are often quite effective – if you use them as directed. In the event you aren’t finding relief, though, you may need something stronger. We can prescribe a medication that will take care of even the most stubborn case of athlete’s foot.
Calluses. This is an interesting case because calluses can be a problem – but they may also offer at least a certain degree of protection against hot sand. (Calluses are, after all, natural protection created by the body.)
Whereas calluses can protect skin, so too can a pair of comfortable, supportive sandals. With this being the case, the best practice is to take appropriate measures to address callus buildup and use your beach footwear for protection.
Remember, if you are diabetic, calluses can be real bad news. Left unaddressed, they can break down over time and become dangerous diabetic foot ulcers. Don’t let this happen! Adhere to your diabetic foot care plan and come in for an appointment as soon as you notice a callus (or anything out of the ordinary) on a foot!
Fungal nails. It can take anywhere from 6 months to a year (with proper treatment and adherence to the treatment plan!) for a fungal toenail infection to clear up. At this point, it’s too late to have clear, healthy toenails for the summer season. That doesn’t mean this is something you should just let go, though!
A fungal infection is not going to clear up on its own and, in fact, will only worsen when left untreated.
You certainly don’t want to consider nail polish to be your long-term solution. Sure, you can cover unsightly, discolored nails with polish, but the moisture only serves to feed the offensive fungal spores. In a pinch, you can use this as a short-term solutions – but make sure you plan on professional care! (Coincidentally, we provide professional treatment for toenail fungus…)
One solution we are pleased to offer is a product called KeryFlex. This professional nail restoration system uses a composite resin that creates the appearance of a normal toenail, while allowing actual, new nail tissue to grow underneath. If you’re embarrassed to spend time on any of our local beaches on account of toenail fungus, this could be the solution to the problem. Contact us today for details about this service.
Sunburns. The odds are rather decent you didn’t sunburn your feet this winter—unless you took a vacation to warmer regions—so this falls in the “preventive” camp (instead of “treatment”).
This is one we find has to be mentioned because it’s easy to remember to put sunscreen on your arms and face – and easy to forget about your feet. Even when applying sunscreen to their legs, lots of people stop right around the ankle. That’s so odd because there isn’t all that much further to go. It’s kind of like stopping your marathon fifty feet from the finish line!
Melanoma (skin cancer) is a serious issue no matter where it develops on the body, but it can be especially concerning in feet. The reason for this comes down to the fact that cancer is most effectively treated at the earliest stages, yet feet are A) the farthest points on the body from the eyes and B) often covered. As such, you are less likely to notice a suspect blemish on a foot than you might on a shoulder or your neck.
At early stages, melanoma is treatable. Catching the problem early is essential. Even better, though, is to avoid the scary situation in the first place – so make sure you use sunscreen on your feet this summer!
We hope your feet are able to stay healthy, pain-free, and functioning properly this summer and you can enjoy everything our West Michigan communities have to offer. If you need expert foot care services, contact the team at Northwood Foot and Ankle Center today!