Tips for Happy Healthy Feet

You've heard it before: wear shoes that fit well, high heels are bad for women's backs, and flip flops, known as 'thongs' Down Under, don't provide enough support.

Even though we know better, most of us abuse our feet even more in summer, expecting them carry us through the renewed activity of long summer days.

It may seem like almost too much to ask of your feet; but it doesn't have to be, according to Dr. John Viscovich, a podiatrist in private practice in Mt. Kisko, N.Y.

His strategy of combining foot care tips with innovative new over-the-counter products makes summer foot care a day at the beach.

But before you can apply the cure, you have to understand the problem.

Dr. Viscovich explained that the four most significant foot problems associated with warm weather are:

Athlete's foot – This is a skin infection caused by a fungus.

Weekend Warrior Syndrome – This is the pain that results from overexerting your feet before they have been properly conditioned for increased physical activity.

Shin Splint – This is a pain in the front of the lower leg between the knee and ankle caused by overexerting muscles that haven't been properly conditioned.

Heel Spur – This results from the ligament on the bottom of the foot that attaches to the heel bone becoming inflamed due to excessive stretching.

Both men and women can suffer from any of these foot problems; but some are more common to one sex than the other. That's why Dr. Viscovich offers the following gender-specific advice:


— Stretch your feet first thing in the morning to get them ready for that day at the golf course or the basketball court. While sitting on your bed, flex your knees and pull your toes all the way back. Also try flexing your knee and rolling your foot around to spell out the letters of the alphabet.

— Use a towel to dry in between your toes after a lot of physical activity. This prevents moisture buildup that is conducive to athlete's foot.

— Buy new sneakers every 2 to 3 months if you are very active. If you are extremely active, it is best to change them every 2 months.


— Know your pedicurist. She should be sterilizing her instruments with an autoclave. This is a pressurized device that heats items above the boiling point to achieve the same level of sterilization that is used in an operating room. Many pedicurists only sterilize instruments using blue light. This doesn't do an effective job because any dust, dirt, or grease that may have accumulated on the lamp blocks microorganisms from the direct light exposure necessary to destroy them.

— Insert an over-the-counter product called “FootPetals” into your high heels to prevent injury to the ball-of-the-foot and heel. These cushions are shaped like flowers and are virtually invisible when they are inside your shoe. They are made of poron, the fiber used to make the custom shoe inserts that podiatrists create.

Dr. Viscovich recommends that both men and women use a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 on top of their feet.

The skin on your feet is just as susceptible to melanoma and basal cell carcinoma as the skin on the rest of your body.

Of course, bunions and calluses are a year round problem. Although bunions are more prevalent in the winter when we are wearing closed shoes, Dr. Viscovich said that you could still get them even though you are wearing looser fitting shoes.

You are especially susceptible to bunions if your parents had them because they are hereditary. Combine heredity with shoes that fit improperly, and chances are, you will develop them.

Here are some non-surgical options that may relieve the pressure and pain:

— Wear roomy shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes, and also control the amount of movement in the rear foot.

— Try Acetaminophen (Tylenol) to control pain. You can also use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) for relieving pain and reducing inflammation.

— Soak your feet in whirlpool baths for relief from pain and inflammation.

— Wear orthotics to help control excessive movement of your foot, which alleviates symptoms and prevents bunions from getting worse.

Calluses are formed because of pressure and friction caused from a repetitive action such as a bare foot scraping against the inside of a shoe. Dr. Viscovich suggests using an over-the-counter product called AmLactin to soften calluses.

Finally, use good judgment with summer footwear:

— Flip flops are great poolside, but they present a danger to your feet if you wear them all day long. They don't provide any support, and they cause your toes to grab the ground, which results in muscles being used improperly and friction that causes calluses.

— Sandals need to fit properly. The straps behind the heel can cause friction, which causes calluses, if they are too tight. Use moleskin inside the sandal to prevent friction, especially if you go sockless. You can find moleskin in the foot care aisle of your drug store.

— Sneakers are activity dependent. For example, a running shoe has front to back support, while an all-around hybrid shoe designed for walking or running has a “roll bar” that absorbs motion in the front of the foot as well as any pressure. This stops the toes from bending up as much.

Using these tips will keep your feet happy all summer long. But according to Dr. Viscovich, there is one tip that can keep your feet the happiest of all.

Ask your partner to give you a foot massage; it will not only do wonders for your feet, but it will also go a long way in keeping your relationship happy too. health writer Maria Esposito contributed to this report.

Click here to check out Dr. Manny's book The Check List (Harper Collins, 2007).

Dr. Manny Alvarez is the managing editor of health news at, and is a regular medical contributor on the FOX News Channel. He is chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Additionally, Alvarez is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.