We’ve had a taste of the warmer weather in Melbourne and we can already hear our patients shouting from the rooftops, “what do I wear on my feet?”
It’s a great question and a tricky variable we as podiatrist have to consider year to year. We tackle comfortable summer footwear for sore feet in a different blog but let’s first provided you with some tools to prep your feet.
How To Prepare Your Feet For Summer
Overuse injuries occur when a body tissue is subjected to a load higher than the capacity of that tissue (or what it can handle).
To break it down… if your foot has been housed in a warm enclosed shoe all winter with a comfy orthotic, only to be let free for hours on end in a lesser-supportive rubber style thong all summer, then the load (or strain) applied to the muscles and ligaments of your feet is very different i.e. rapidly increased!
So what can we do?
Start introducing your summer footwear slowly. People who holiday overseas in the middle of the Australian winter can be at more risk of injury due to the abrupt introduction of lesser supportive footwear.
It’s a bit like turning up to your favourite running event, having sat in front of the TV for training!
Strengthen Your Feet
Now, not all summer footwear options are bad, they just take a bit of getting used to and good foot ‘strength’. We recommend starting but using your thongs, sandals or similar in an evening around the home, before building slowly over the weekends (a few hours at a time).
Wait a minute… you can strengthen your feet I hear you ask?
Yes, like any other muscle in the body our feet can be strengthened to better cope with lifestyle demands. But before strengthening your feet it’s important we ‘free them up’ and show them a bit of TLC.
Feet Strengthening Exercise
Using a lacrosse ball (as demonstrated in the below video) is vital for ensuring the muscles of your feet are mobile and dexterous. Shoes and orthotics are very important for many patients, but they also lead to the four-layered compartments of foot muscles becoming compressed together. Freeing these muscle groups daily will also lead to a reduction in arch cramping, which we often see more of during summer.
Now to get strong…
This requires time and a lot of patience but it can be done! A simple in-home exercise is to ‘activate’ your arches. It can help to draw a little circle at the highest point of your arch (we can it the navicular) and imagine a piece of string ‘lifting’ the high point.
You can achieve this by also driving your big toe joint into the ground without curling the toes as demonstrated below. If this is repeated regularly throughout the day, over time your feet will be ‘popping’ with muscles you never knew you had and they will get stronger!
Relieve Muscle Cramps During The Warmer Days
Here are a few things you can do:
1. It’s very important to stay hydrated on warm days because our muscles become dehydrated when we sweat a lot.
2. Water is great day to day, but if your exercise a lot consider an electrolyte replenishing drink to top up some of the key salts in your muscles.
3. Magnesium spray and baths are also growing in popularity. We’ve tried both and while they don’t eliminate muscle soreness completely, they do help to reduce fatigue.