SIOUX CITY | Children run around barefoot in the summer and if they're not careful, they'll end up with sunburned feet or feet embedded with foreign objects.

Gregory McCarthy, a podiatrist with Siouxland Podiatry Associates, said it's not a bad idea to wear flip flops at the pool or beach. But he cautions against putting many miles on the squishy foam footwear. You're bound to end up with foot problems.

McCarthy said overuse injuries tend to crop up in the spring and summer. He sees plantar fasciitis, one of the most common causes of heel pain, tendonitis and stress fractures.

These problems result from walking around in flip flops and sandals that don't provide stability or support.

"It's frustrating for some people because they can see their friends wearing them and they don't have problems, but they do," he said. "A lot of that's just due to mechanics or heredity."

McCarthy said patients should stay away from wedge shoes too.

"Anything like that has a heel will thrust people's body away toward the ball of their foot," he said. "That creates a lot of pressure-related problems -- callouses and something called Morton's Neuroma, which is a pinched nerve."

These kinds of shoes, McCarthy said, quicken the development of chronic problems like bunions and hammer toe. Surgery is the only cure for these bothersome deformities.

Achilles tendonitis can be alleviated with rest and heel lifts, which reduce tension in the tendon.

"Sometimes the way the foot functions, mainly like a pronation, that can create extra tension on the Achilles tendon," McCarthy said. "So we'll evaluate and determine whether somebody has that problem instead of just giving them a heel lift. We'll actually give them types of inserts or special shoes that will help with that."

Patients, McCarthy said, often think the sharp stabbing pain they feel in the inner part of their heel is caused by a heel spur. He said it's actually plantar fasciitis. Special inserts and shoes are prescribed first. Then McCarthy said medications, injections and night splints can be tried.

"Plantar fasciitis can lead to the formation of a heel spur but it doesn't cause pain," he said.

Patients suffering with sore, aching feet, should take a hard look at their footwear. Stability, McCarthy said, is key. If the shoe bends easily, when folded upside down or twists easily, it's lacking adequate support.

"Trying to heal a condition, whether it's a tendonitis or plantar fasciitis, requires alteration of what they wear," he said. "It can be a struggle. Some people will have this condition chronically because they don't follow orders. They want to wear what they want to wear."

Nail fungus might keep some patients from wearing sandals this summer. Treatments aren't always a quick fix, according to McCarthy.

If over-the-counter medication doesn't cure cracked yellow or brown toenails, McCarthy said, patients will likely be prescribed an oral medication. He said it could take six to nine months to eliminate the fungus.


Health and Lifestyles reporter

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