Unless you live in Alaska, chances are sandals are a wardrobe staple this summer. And unless you have some bizarrely perfect foot shape that magically molds to whatever shoe you wear, chances are you’ve experienced the havoc certain sandals can wreak on your feet.
The abstract arrangement of straps and cut outs can rub all the wrong places in all the wrong ways–and you usually don’t find this out until after you bought the injurious footwear. Skin irritation, blisters, cuts, calluses and even more serious ailments can all be caused by wearing the wrong shoe. But if you’re anything like us, you’re probably going to at least attempt to wear them anyway–they cost money and they’re so cute!
So what do you do when your favorite summer shoes don’t seem to like you as much as you like them?
We talked to Dr. Nadia F. Levy, D.P.M. at The Center for Pediatric Care and Sports Medicine, and did a little research to get the 411 on how to prevent and treat these irritating sandal injuries. Read on for some pointers and click through the gallery for some useful products. Or just throw out your stylish sandals and get some Adidas shower slides. They seem pretty comfy.
• Your foot shape can be the cause of your foot woes: If you have an “extreme” foot shape, you could be in for trouble. An extremely high-arched foot can cause shoes to rub up against the top of the foot, causing irritation. Additionally, people with high arches “tend to put a lot of pressure on the outside of their feet,” causing irritation on the outside. People with the opposite problem–extremely flat feet–can injure their plantar or tendons by wearing shoes without enough support (aka most sandals).
• A blister could just be the start of a more serious problem: A blister is caused by pressure and friction on the skin, but if that rubbing continues, it could harm layers below the skin. “With time, if it continues to rub, it can start to irritate your nerves. It can even cause a cyst.”
• Building up a callus can be good, until it’s not: Calluses can be good if you’re a runner: “For a little while a callus can be a protection because if you don’t have the callus, you might feel like you’re pounding your bone more. But at the same time the callus itself can become painful, and in extreme cases, a callus can become an open sore. So if you’re getting a lot of callus, it’s a sign that either you’re in the really wrong shoe or you have something going on with your foot that the pressure is not being evenly distributed.” Sound like you? Orthotics can help with that.
• Put something soft in between your skin and the offending sandal strap: Dr. Levy recommends trying to stretch out the straps, and if that doesn’t work using a small silicon pad or moleskin. “You can put it on your foot so that there’s less friction.” Eventually, though, you might just have to get rid of those shoes. I know, we’re sorry. “If you’re getting blistering once, that’s normal with a new pair of shoes. But if it’s just constant blistering in that same area, then your foot type probably is just not right for that shoe. Maybe the shoe is too narrow.”
• Moisturized feet will still blister: In my ballet days, I was told keeping my feet moisturized would help prevent blisters and the like (an inevitability when you’re dancing about on your literal toes). This is sort of true but not really. “Eventually, the strap would rub the cream off and it would still blister, but it could probably delay the blistering.”
• Don’t use those medicated pad things: According to Dr. Levy, placing those medicated skin-colored pads on an existing blister can be dangerous. “I wouldn’t buy any pad from the pharmacy that have any medication in it without checking with your doctor first. I’ve seen some really bad things happen with that. You can get an open sore from it and it can be 10 times more painful and you can get an infection.” Only use those pads that stick to your skin to prevent a blister–not treat it.
• No, you should not pop a blister. “If you came to me with a blister, I would lance it, meaning I would pop it but not take the top off,” Dr. Levy said. “No one should take the top off of a blister ever. Probably, the blister will pop itself. I wouldn’t do any kind of home treatment because it’s too dangerous because it could get infected easily.”
• Here’s what to do if you have one: “The best way to handle it is to take some gauze and just cover it up until it pops itself. Once it’s popped and a little more exposed, you can put an antibiotic ointment on there and just continue to cover it up with something, but keep an eye on it and watch for an infection and keep it away from dirty areas. If it was really painful and you went to see someone who has sterile equipment, then someone could pop it for you.”
• Scarring can happen: While not necessarily painful, blisters can cause scars that are a total pain in the butt. “Any blister can really become a scar if it’s deep enough,” explained Dr. Levy. “If it’s a bad enough blister and it gets to a certain layer of the skin, or gets enough irritation, then it can scar.” The only treatments are really creams like Mederma and going in for laser scar removal treatments.
Click through for some more products that may aid in your foot woes.