With fall upon us and winter close behind, gone are the days of bare feet and flip flops. With the onset of cooler weather, it’s important to keep your feet safe from the elements – rain, snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. According to Marc Lipton, DPM, a podiatrist with Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland (OACM), the cooler weather doesn’t have to put a damper on your outdoor activities. With a little preparation, working and playing outdoors while keeping your feet warm and comfortable can be easy.
Tip #1 – If the shoe fits…
Wearing appropriate shoes for the activity and the weather is a must. Before venturing into the outdoors, check the fit of older shoes. Leather boots and shoes, for example, can shrink if you have not worn them since last year. Shoes that fit too tightly can cause foot sores and blisters.
Rainy fall days and snow and ice in the winter can leave your feet soggy. Shoes should be waterproof or water-resistant in wet weather. In winter, insulated boots are important if you’ll be outside for any length of time. Wet feet and prolonged exposure to the elements can lead to cold-related injuries such as frostbite. “Never immerse your feet in hot water,” cautions Dr. Lipton. “Carefully hold cold, wet feet near a source of warmth or use a heating pad to slowly warm and dry them.”
For individuals with diabetes, ensuring proper fit and warm, dry feet in the colder months is critical. Patients who have diabetic neuropathy of the feet and loss of sensation are especially susceptible to frostbite and cold. Frostbite and other cold-related injuries are serious and can lead to gangrene and even amputation in the worst cases.
Tip #2 – Wear appropriate socks.
Dr. Lipton recommends wool blend and moisture-wicking socks designed to keep feet dry and warm. “If you have poor circulation, neuropathy, or diabetes consider socks made for skiers to keep your feet warm,” he says.
People with impaired sensation in their feet should dress for the weather due to their inability to sense that their feet are cold. Consider feet warmers for prolonged cold exposure.
Tip #3 – Keep your skin dry yet moisturized.
Change socks and shoes as soon as possible if your feet get wet. Diabetics, neuropathic patients, and those with peripheral vascular disease should check feet visually before and after activities outdoors for any sores, blisters, or discoloration, especially when coming in from the cold. Additionally, moisturize dry skin regularly. Dry, cracked skin can lead to infection if not cared for properly.
Tip #4 – Pay attention to toenails.
Ingrown toenails can be a real pain. To avoid this problem, keep toenails trimmed straight across and even with the end of the toe. Tight-fitting shoes can aggravate ingrown toenails.
It’s also a good idea to avoid toenail polish when the weather cools off. This allows toenails time to breathe and recover from damage from prolonged use of polish during the warmer months.
In the right conditions, even relatively brief exposure to the cold can result in foot injury. An ounce of preparation as the colder weather approaches will go a long way in keeping feet healthy this fall and winter. For any cuts, sores, or abnormalities that do not improve in a reasonable amount of time, make an appointment with a foot care professional – your feet with thank you.
Contact Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at 410-644-1880, 855-463-2663, or visit www.mdbonedocs.com to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist.