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Summer Heat & Your Feet: Preventing ‘Summer Spread’

July 04, 2015

Central Floridians often try to beat the heat with light clothing and sandals and flip-flops that give their feet room to breath.

But these efforts to escape the heat could cause even more grief for your feet.

It’s called “summer spread,” a condition that happens when your feet widen, flatten or collapse because they aren’t properly bound or secure. Sandals and flip-flops are the main culprits of summer spread because they don’t provide enough arch or overall support.

Since we have warm weather all the time here in Central Florida, summer spread is a year-round challenge. That’s because of our footwear choices and average temperatures here. When it’s very hot, for example, the body’s fluid dynamic changes and there’s an imbalance between the amount of fluid in your legs compared to the rest of your body. As you swing your legs, you get more fluid in your feet and this leads to more swelling. Diet and weight also play a role in summer spread. With weight gain, there’s more pressure on the foot. And if you run in the heat, you place five to seven times more body weight on your feet.

What you eat also has an effect on the condition of your feet. Americans are notorious for our salt intake—90 percent of us eat more than the recommended daily allowance. Since our diets are really salty, it’s important to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated to prevent foot swelling, especially in Florida.

Hydration is important when you travel, too. When you fly or sit in a car for long periods, you don’t move your legs or muscles as much, which could lead to vein swelling. Athletes in particular suffer from this problem, so we often advise them and other travelers to wear compression stockings or move their legs every couple of hours to prevent swelling.

So, what should you do if you live in Central Florida and want to prevent summer spread and foot swelling? Well, I know nobody likes to hear this, but a good running or walking shoe is the best way to get more foot support. I know the last thing you want to do is cover your feet when it’s nearly 100 degrees outside, but better that than long-term foot problems.

Yes, flip-flops are comfortable, because they can catch as you walk and lead to trips and falls. They also don’t offer enough foot support so they make the foot splay, or widen and turn outward. Your toes have to grab the shoe to keep it on, so you lose some mechanics that are normal with walking and fatigue your feet, which creates more swelling.

You want shoes that allow your feet to rest so that they don’t continue to twist beyond normal. Obviously it’s difficult to not wear flip-flops and open-toed sandals. But if you want to give your feet a break and prevent summer spread, grab a great running or walking shoe from your closet every so often and don’t wear flip-flops or sandals every day.

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