Foot Safety at the Beach

One of the nicest things about living in the Tampa Bay area… You’re never more than 20 or 30 minutes tops from an incredible public beach with clean white sand, ample recreation facilities, tons of shopping and snack options, and probably a nearby nature trail or two.

Probably even several of them!

Everyone knows about Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach, of course. They’re famous throughout the entire country, and recently popped up as the #1 and #4 best beaches (respectively) in the entire country according to a Coastal Living magazine poll.

But if they’re too crowded, or a little out of the way, or you just want to try someplace new, there are other placed to check out. There’s always Madeira Beach (wonderfully laid back yet still close to a ton of shopping and restaurant options), or Caladesi Island State Park (gorgeously secluded, and only accessible by ferry), or Fort DeSoto Park (why not make it a whole camping trip?), or …

You get the idea. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

Yet regardless of which amazing beach you choose, you should always take a moment beforehand to make sure your feet are properly protected and cared for. You certainly don’t want a burn, injury, or infection ruining your weekend getaway!

Avoid Going Barefoot

We generally don’t recommend you go barefoot at the beach. Even on the softest and cleanest sand in the world, feet are vulnerable to things like sharp pieces of coral, glass, scalding sand or pavement, jellyfish stings, fungal infections (especially in shower or bathroom facilities) and other dangers.

Not only does that mean pain and frustration in the moment for you, but the resulting cut or injury can also easily get infected; especially if you go in the water.

If you have diabetes or peripheral neuropathy, your risk is even higher, so absolutely do not go barefoot if you have one of these (or similar) conditions. Time and time again, we’ve treated neuropathic patients for bad foot injuries and wounds after a beach day—usually because they couldn’t tell that they were walking on 120+ degree sand for hours!

So What Should You Wear on Your Feet?

That depends on your chosen activity.

If you’re just going to be catching some rays or relaxing in the sun, only getting up occasionally to grab something out of the cooler or walk a short distance to the showers or snack shop? Flip-flops or similar casual sandals are probably fine. They’re never the best choice, but better to have a thin foam barrier protecting your soles than nothing at all.

A better choice would be water shoes, especially if you’re going to be spending some time swimming and playing in the warm Gulf waters. Water shoes really are great, especially if they have decent arch support and cushioning built in. They’re designed to drain and dry quickly, and remain lightweight in the water.

If you’re planning to be a little more active—strolling the boardwalk, hiking the nature trail, exploring the shops about town—you’ll probably want either a proper pair of walking shoes, or some high-quality walking or hiking sandals with excellent built-in cushioning and arch support.

There are many reasons you really don’t want to be doing much walking in your flip-flops:

  • One, their flimsy design offers no real arch support or shock absorption, so your feet will fatigue much
  • Two, they don’t offer as much protection for your toes and soles as better footwear.
  • Three, they force you to dig in with your toes and shorten your stride just to keep them from flopping right off your feet! This negatively affects your body biomechanics and can lead to pain throughout the body, including the knees, hips, and back.

Use Sunscreen

You got your face, your ears, your arms, your stomach, your legs. Your sweetheart helped you with your back.

Forgetting anything?

You’d be surprised how many people ignore their feet when it’s time to apply the sunscreen. But your feet are just as likely as any other part of your body to get sunburned, and it’ll hurt just as much.

In fact, the skin on your feet is particularly susceptible to certain cancers, including melanoma—the most dangerous form of skin cancer. And because you might not be accustomed to checking your feet as often or as carefully as, say, your face, it might take you longer to notice a problem.

(That’s especially scary for melanoma, since it’s almost always curable if caught early but frequently deadly if it reaches stage III or later before you seek treatment.)

A couple of things to remember as well:

  • If you wait until you’re sitting on the beach to apply sunscreen, you’re doing it wrong! Most products require you to apply about 30 minutes or so before sun exposure for the full effect.
  • Check the directions for how often you need to reapply, and under what conditions. If you’re planning to spend a good chunk of your day at the beach, you may need to apply several times.

Check Your Feet Again Before You Leave

After your fun beach day is complete, take a few moments to wash your feet thoroughly with soap and water, then dry them carefully. (Don’t share towels; use your own. Used, unwashed towels can harbor fungus from someone else’s body!)

Once your feet are clean, look them over carefully for any problems you may have developed during the day—cuts, blisters, damaged toenails, etc. Again, this is especially critical if you have diabetes or neuropathy, since you’re less likely to have felt these injuries when they originally occurred, and more likely to develop complications from them afterward.

Give Us a Call If You Develop Any Problems

Now, we’re not exactly expecting anything bad to happen to you out on the coast. By taking just a few of the above precautions, your odds of an injury requiring medical care are pretty small.

But if you do have any problems with your feet during or after your beach day, make sure you get in to see us as quickly as possible. “Minor” foot injuries tend to not stay minor for long if you ignore them, and we wouldn’t want your summer to be ruined by a preventable problem! (We’re guessing you wouldn’t either.)

So go out there and have fun, stay safe, and if anything happens to your feet you know what to do—give Precision Foot and Ankle a call at (727) 399-7167.

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