The sun is shining, school is out, and it’s time to enjoy the summer! The start of summer brings big plans with it, as we look forward to all of the activities that come with the season, from playing in the backyard to vacationing at the beach. Though summer is full of fun, all of this activity can mean a higher risk of suffering a foot or ankle injury.
There are a number of common foot injuries to watch out for in the summer, but there are even more ways to prevent them. As you plan your summer activities, here are a few tips to help keep your feet safe and healthy:
Play it Safe in the Backyard
If you or your kids plan on spending a lot of time in the backyard, make sure you have the right equipment. A sprained ankle is nearly as big of a summer staple as visits from the ice cream truck, but with the proper precautions, you may be able to avoid it.
First, make sure you and your kids are always wearing appropriate, supportive shoes when spending time outdoors. Wearing shoes that are too small or too big, as well as those without any arch support, can quickly lead to injuries of the foot and ankle. New tennis shoes can alleviate some of these concerns, but some summer activities might benefit from more specialized footwear. For example, if your child loves to run through the sprinkler, water shoes can help protect them from slipping on the wet grass or stepping on something painful.
Second, make sure any outdoor furniture and play structures are stable and secure, which can help reduce the risk of slips and falls. After a long winter, it's common for playground equipment, trampolines, and fences to be unstable or loose, so even if they were in the perfect position and condition last summer, take the time to check them over before anyone starts playing. And if you spot any broken pieces or rusty screws, make sure to replace them right away.
Finally, pay attention to the terrain. Uneven ground is the perfect terrain for an ankle injury, and some surfaces like driveways can become dangerously hot in direct sunlight. When possible, try to keep playtime off of surfaces that could cause injury.
Sidestep Seaside Foot and Ankle Injuries
If you're planning a beach vacation this summer, you likely have a lot to keep in mind. From scheduling airline reservations and hotel check-ins to making sure that every member of your family is bringing everything they need, there are a lot of details to attend to. Though it might not be top of your list, injury prevention should also be a priority. Here are a few helpful tips:
- Never go barefoot: Though many of us dream of feeling sand between our toes, sandals are the way to go. Between broken shells, sharp rocks, plastic debris, and hot sand, walking around the beach in bare feet can be dangerous. Instead, wear supportive sandals with a good grip to keep your feet safe and comfortable. Avoid wearing flip-flops, they don’t offer any support and can exacerbate any existing foot problems.
- Your feet need sun protection, too: It's easy to forget to apply sunscreen to some of the most important areas of our bodies, especially the tops of the feet, which are commonly overlooked. This is an especially important thing to note since sandals and other open shoes are common in the summer. Next time you're lathering up, don't forget to apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to your feet and ankles to keep them safe from sunburn.
- Treat yourself to some foot spa time: Salty ocean water and sandy beaches are known to cause dry, cracked feet. To keep your feet at their best, bring a foot scrub and thick moisturizer with you on vacation; make sure to moisturize often and treat yourself to a foot spa every few days. This will help keep your feet hydrated and looking smooth, which can also help prevent them from cracking and becoming infected.
- Pack a foot first-aid kit: If you or a member of your party do happen to cut your foot on a seashell, broken glass, or other sharp debris, it's important to have a foot first-aid kit on hand. This should include alcohol pads, bandages, and antibiotic cream. Protecting the cut is especially important on the beach, where sand and salt water can get inside and cause infection.
Avoid Overuse Injuries on the Field
Summer can be a particularly exciting time for athletes, as the fabulous weather provides great opportunities for outdoor sports and athletic activity. That said, summer is also a time when some athletes experience overuse injuries and severe pain due to increased physical activity and the competitive nature of playing sports. Here are some common sports injuries to watch out for this summer:
- Ankle sprains: As previously discussed, ankle sprains are common in the summer. However, for athletes in particular, inversion ankle sprains are especially common. This is when the foot rolls inward while running, jumping, or quickly starting and stopping—an action that puts stress on the ligaments, causing an ankle sprain, pain, and swelling.
- Stress fractures: A stress fracture is a small crack in the bone, typically caused by overuse. Stress fractures do not typically show up on X-rays, so athletes need to be aware of the signs and symptoms, like localized pain in the foot or ankle that increases when running or standing on the affected area for long periods of time.
- Plantar fasciitis: The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, and when too much stress is repeatedly placed upon it, it can become inflamed. The most common sign of this overuse injury is heel pain.
- Achilles tendonitis: The Achilles tendon connects the heel to the calf muscle, and it can become inflamed or aggravated after repeated impacts on hard surfaces.
Luckily, preventing these types of foot and ankle injuries is simple. The most important thing you can do to avoid any sports injury is warm up before physical activity and cool down after. In addition, know when to stop. If you're feeling any pain or discomfort in your feet, ankles, or lower legs, take a break and rest. And, make sure you're giving your body enough time to rest in between workouts. Lastly, and as always, wear the right type of shoes for the activity you're doing—shoes with good cushioning and support.
Visit Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists At Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, your
foot and ankle health is always our top priority, no matter the season. Our team of board-certified podiatrists provides comprehensive care for a wide range of foot and ankle issues, from treating common causes of foot pain to addressing any injuries you may have sustained. From simple evaluations to more complex ankle surgery, we're proud to help relieve pain and prevent it from coming back in the future.