Summer’s here! Most families are looking forward to a break from school schedules, and with that, the possibility of free time and relaxation. It’s no surprise that travel plans are often a big and exciting part of summer for many people. Whether they head for tropical climates or cooler temps – destinations new or old – a change in scenery can be an opportunity to make new memories while having a great time.
However, travel isn’t always “foot-friendly.” In this article we share some of the things that you should keep in mind to reduce the risk of vacation foot pain or injury.
Preparing for Your Trip
Unless you are planning on specific physical activities like hiking or a half-marathon, you may not give much thought to your footwear until most of your travel wardrobe is decided. Why? Because we tend to think of outfits and style, not necessarily comfort. Here are some common pitfalls:
Brand New Shoes – Traveling with a pair of shoes that you’ve never broken in can be a huge mistake. You may find that they are way too stiff, or not supportive enough. Or, there may be something about the fit that causes friction, which can lead to blisters, cuts and swelling. The solution is planning. If you know you need new shoes before a trip, make the purchase ahead of time and spend a few hours in the shoes in the days or weeks leading up to the trip. You may find out they are no good in time to replace them. Even if you decide to stick with them, you’ll understand that you may need to pack a backup pair of shoes to have a more comfortable option.
Wrong Footwear – We get it. Baggage weight and size are at a premium now. However, if comfortable shoes deserve a place in your closet, they probably also belong in your luggage. Don’t get caught up in the idea that you need the ONE perfect pair of shoes for your trip if they won’t adequately cover all of the things you plan to do during your vacation. Will you be dressing up? Exercising? Around water? Walking long periods of time? Your results may differ, but you may find that you’ll need 3 or more types of footwear to accomplish these activities in comfort. Travel smart and your feet will thank you for it.
As part of your preparation, bring along a small first aid kit. It can be tiny, consisting of a few bandaids, some antibiotic ointment, and some pads or cushions. This can help you prevent or treat problems like blisters, cuts and scrapes.
Before your trip, prepare your feet by clipping your toenails. Use a pumice stone to remove dry and scaly skin. Apply lotion as a moisturizer.
Airport/Air travel foot care tips
If you’re traveling by air, wear comfortable shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Bear in mind that you may have to walk briskly to catch a flight, pass through security checks, and stand in for extended periods. While the rules at different airports may vary, you might need to remove your shoes at TSA checkpoints. It’s a good idea to wear socks to avoid direct contact with the floor, which carries a risk of exposure to fungal infections.
Once you’ve made it onto the plane, you need to deal with the reality of smaller seats and minimal legroom. To prevent excessive foot and leg swelling, we recommend the following practices:
- Avoid or reduce salt intake in your diet before the trip. Salt intake can cause you to retain fluid leading to swollen feet.
- Keep your handbags overhead – Airplane seats are tiny and not spacious. If you stuff a bag below the seat in from of you, you are restricting your ability to move your legs comfortably. Cramping your feet and fixing your legs in a restrictive position can reduce blood flow to your lower extremities, causing numbness, pain and swelling, from the toes to the knees and hips.
- Walk around – Get up periodically and walk around during the actual flight. This allows you to stretch out cramped limbs and promote blood flow to your feet. You can do this as part of a bathroom break. If nature isn’t calling, that’s OK, too. There’s nothing wrong with standing in the aisle for a few minutes.
Avoid crossing your legs, as this cuts off blood circulation.
General Foot Care Tips
Keep your feet clean – Your feet get dirty during the day, particularly if you engage in an outdoor activity or when wearing open footwear. Dirty feet are a breeding ground for bacteria, and possible fungal infections. Don’t let “vacay mode” interfere with your solid hygiene routines.
Use footwear in public areas and bathrooms – Shoes are designed to protect your feet from rough surfaces, sharp objects and other dangers. In addition, public bathrooms are one of the most likely places to contract parasites in fecal matter, or fungal infections in wet, damp areas. Wearing footwear in public bathrooms thus protects your feet from invisible dangers.
Inspect your feet if you are feeling any discomfort – It’s pretty easy to ignore foot problems. Checking your feet for minor injury is the first measure in preventing bigger problems. If you experience soreness or redness (hotspots), bandage the area to prevent blisters.
Apply sunscreen – Don’t neglect your feet while applying the sunscreen. Your feet are also susceptible to burns and blistering.
These are all specific measures that you can take to eliminate common foot problems related to travel. It’s also important to always be observant of your surroundings and to take great care in new situations that you aren’t used to. Pay attention to slippery surfaces, steep inclines, thick undergrowth, and other hazards that can result in injury.
Houston Foot and Ankle Care wishes you and your family a wonderful summer. We’ll be here, treating patients from all over the Houston area and beyond. If you have any type of foot care need, call (713) 541-3199 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Gabriel Maislos, a top-rated and board certified Houston podiatrist. We accept most major medical insurance.
Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:
- foot pain or swelling
- fungal infection
- ankle sprain or fracture