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Heat Can Be Hard on Feet

Keep socks and shoes clean and dry to avoid fungal infections

MONDAY, April 21, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Summer's heat is usually associated with afflictions ranging from sunburn to heat exhaustion, but foot pain?

That's right. Heat causes the entire body to swell and retain fluid, and the feet are no exception. That means tighter shoes and sweatier socks are the perfect recipe for a host of foot problems.

To begin with, warm weather can turn a pair of shoes into a virtual petri dish for bacterial growth, causing a number of skin-related ailments, explains Dr. Donald G. Hovancsek, an Olympia, Wash., podiatrist.

"The warmth not only makes your pores open up more, but you perspire more, and that can result in fungus and yeast problems," he explains. "That ingrown toenail, for instance, that wasn't so bad in the winter may in the summer incubate and get infected faster." Athlete's foot is another fungal condition that thrives in warm environments.

And then there are the bones. Shoes that are tighter in summer because of swelling can place pressure on the complex configuration of the many bones and joints in the feet.

"Nearly a quarter of the body's joints are in the feet, and swelling puts pressure on all of them," explains Hovancsek. "And there's no question that pressure causes pain."

Such pressure can further exacerbate pre-existing foot problems such as hammertoes and bunions, because misaligned bones and joints have even less room to move.

There are a number of relatively easy ways for avoiding such foot-related misfortunes.

The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends: never wearing shoes that are tight, using padding around bone-related problems if necessary, and making sure to wear clean, breathable socks in hot weather. Wash your feet regularly and alternate shoes, and if you have continuing foot pain, seek medical help.

More information

The American Podiatric Medical Association offers this helpful information on the many ways in which feet are susceptible to heat.

SOURCES: Donald G. Hovancsek, D.P.M., podiatrist, Olympia, Wash., and member, American Podiatric Medical Association Public Information and Education Committee; American Podiatric Medical Association
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