An expert view on sandal sense! How to prevent blisters

Warmer weather in the footwear world means only one thing: sandals. Sandals are a happy indication that holiday season is drawing near, and it’s great to be able to paint our nails and feel the cooling breeze on our feet. I for one will be shedding no tears over finally getting to put my winter boots away along with my thick socks and tights. But there is a darker side to sandals, namely blisters, painful rubbing and all manner of nasty foot probs.

There’s no better time than the start of the summer to ensure your feet will stay fresh, attractive and comfortable throughout the rest of the season, so we’ve enlisted the help of footcare expert Michael Harrison-Blount, who works with Scholl to advise on keeping feet in tip-top condition.

How to take care of your feet this summer

Q. How can we best prepare our feet for the sudden change in footwear style in spring so we don’t get terrible blisters?

Wearing poorly fitting footwear can cause blisters as the friction between your foot and shoe or between toes rubbing together can cause the upper layers of skin to rupture forming a pocket that fills with liquid. Blisters also form more easily on moist skin and are more likely to occur in warm conditions.

As blisters are a result of friction there are a number of simple techniques to help avoid them:

• Keep your feet dry

• Wear well-fitting shoes

o Wearing properly fitting shoes is vital to avoid blisters. Being too tight or too loose can both be a problem. Ensure that there is a 1cm space between your longest toe and the end of your shoe. Be sure that you have enough room to wiggle your toes inside the toe box, and your heel does not slip when you walk

o A combination of materials and fittings will allow the shoe to ‘breathe well‘. Shoes with a lot of fabric or mesh combined with leather rather than a solid leather shoe or completely synthetic shoes would be preferable

o Inspect the inside of your shoes for seams or worn areas that might produce extra friction.

Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Among other things, staying well hydrated will help prevent chafing by allowing you to perspire freely. When you stop perspiring your sweat will form salt crystals on your body increasing friction.

• Stay Dry – Using powder along with the right sock can really help. Use foot powder or talcum powder.

Blister Care

If a blister does occur, do not break the skin. Blister plasters are a sensible way to treat the problem as they help the blisters to heal while forming a second skin that repels water, dirt and bacteria.

Treat an open blister by cleaning with soap and water; cover it with an antiseptic ointment before using a protective soft gel dressing. Most blisters heal naturally and do not require medical attention. As new skin grows beneath the blister, the fluid contained within it will be slowly reabsorbed by your body and the skin on top will dry and peel off. This process normally takes 3-7 days.

The unbroken skin over a blister provides a natural barrier to infection. This means that you should try to keep blisters intact and unbroken in order to avoid infection. Never pierce a blister with a needle, but allow it to break on its own once the skin underneath has healed.

Picking the right shoes

Q. What summer sandals styles are better and worse for the feet? Can you stay stylish while wearing ‘healthy’ shoes?

There are two factors that are essential for a shoe to fit and support the foot:

1) A firm heel counter that fits the contours of the heel

2) A fastening over the instep to prevent the foot slipping forwards in the shoe

This does not mean we all have to raid granny’s wardrobe. Whilst summer footwear such as sandals and ballet pumps do not offer these two important criteria they will probably do little harm if worn by a healthy individual for short periods of time. Many stylish sandals are now available which do try to overcome the potential problems that may be caused. They incorporate a profiled inner sole that supports the natural arches of the foot.

Cushioning to aid shock absorption with each step, fastening around the instep or back of the heel which helps to keep the foot in position and slip resistant soles to prevent falls at the beach or pool side.

Q: Some people spend the entire summer wearing Fitflop or other ‘toning’ shoes. Is there any reason not to do this?

There is no reason not to do this as the toning effects and possible fatigue that can be caused is minimal. A common sense approach should be taken however and if wearing this type of footwear is causing aches and pains then take a break for a few days and wear an alternative. It is always advisable to vary your footwear and choose the appropriate shoe for the appropriate activity.

Q: In terms of materials  what is better for the feet in summer?

Leather uppers are most beneficial and have the advantage of being breathable which allows the evaporation of sweat and helps minimise problems associate with sweating i.e. maceration of the skin / fungal infections. The benefit of leather, however, is often negated with the addition of synthetic linings.

A well fitting, synthetic shoe that is allowed to dry fully in between wears may be preferable to people than leather shoes with a synthetic lining. Shoes for sporting activities in the summer are available with mesh sides to allow air to circulate better when they are being worn and also means they dry out more quickly in between the activities

Q: Do you notice the effect that different trends have on women’s feet? Can you link many of the problems you see to particular footwear fashions?

High heels are still an essential part of the wardrobe – they make your legs look longer and your bottom smaller. Although fewer women wear heels today (A reduction from 60% in 1986 to 39% in 2007) it has been shown that 42% of women would wear uncomfortable shoes and that 73% had shoe related foot problems. (APMA 2006)

Women who wear high heels on a daily basis are at increased risk of minor injuries such as blisters, corns and calluses to more serious problems like repeated ankle sprains, foot deformities, arthritis, and adversely affecting posture and the musculoskeletal system.

In contrast problems can be associated with ballet inspired fashion flat shoes. This style offers little to no support to the foot, causing increased pressure on the joints in the lower body. Long periods of time standing or walking in this type of shoe can cause aches and pains in your feet and legs. Nothing holding the foot in place also means the toes are likely to claw and rub inside what can be a shallow and narrow toe box.

Flat shoes can be just as damaging as heels so in the same way try not to wear them for long periods of time or when doing a lot of walking. Choose a flat shoe with higher sides and a slightly thicker heel to spread the load more evenly or wear soft insoles to reduce the impact on your knees. Try to vary the heel height from day to day and reduce friction by opting for a shoe with a strap or fastening.

We’ll be bringing you more tips from Michael on how to walk in heels later in the season. But for now, what sandals will you be stepping into this spring?

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