Sun’s out, the toes are out. OK, maybe that’s not the idiom but when the sun shines, you’re inclined to spend time outdoors. With that comes the need to protect your body, including your feet, from the elements, namely in the sun’s UV rays as well as the heat.
Although protection against the sun is critical year-round, it’s especially important in the summer. In this article, we’ll guide you on common warm-weather foot care tips including how to protect your feet from the sun, how to limit common summer foot conditions, and guidance on what to do if you get a sunburn.
Use Sunscreen On Your Feet (Both Sides!)
Your best measure for skin protection is covering up. Your next best is sunscreen. Some may know it as sunblock, sun lotion, or sunscreen, but in essence, it’s a lotion or spray that absorbs and/or reflects some of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It protects your skin against sunburn and helps prevent skin cancer. Additional benefits of using sunscreen include slowing the development of wrinkles, dark spots, and sagging skin.
No one is completely safe from the sun. In Canada, the sunlight is strong enough to cause skin cancer, premature aging of the skin, and harm to the eyes. In fact, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer; it’s also one of the most preventable.
Here are our top sunscreen practices:
- Always use sunscreen before going out in the sun. Apply sunscreen rain or shine. Even on cold cloudy days, there’s still a UV rating. For best results, apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outside.
- Apply sunscreen to both sides of your feet. Applying sunscreen to your feet means both sides. Don’t forget your soles for maximum protection, especially when you’re at the beach.
- Reapply sunscreen after going in the water. Additionally, look for broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB protection) and “water-resistant” on the label if you plan on taking a dip.
- Use an SPF of 30 or higher. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends you use an SPF of 30 or higher because at that rating it blocks out 97% of UVB rays.
- Use sunscreen before other sprays/skincare products. If you’re using insect repellent, for example, apply sunscreen to your body and feet first.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours. Sweat, water, or toweling off can remove sunscreen and lessen its effectiveness. Reapply sunscreen often to ensure you’re always protected.
- Check the expiration date. Sunscreens should not be used after the expiry date. This is because they contain chemicals that degrade over time, and therefore won’t be as effective after the expiration date. Additionally, sunscreens can be affected by extreme changes in temperature.
Check Your Feet Regularly
Here are a few facts about melanoma and skin conditions, courtesy of the Canadian Cancer Society and the Mayo Clinic:
- UV rays cause 90% of melanoma (the most serious type of skin cancer) cases in North America
- Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Canada
- Incidence rates of melanoma in North America ranked second highest in the world
- Skin cancer is highly preventable
- Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, tanning lamps, and tanning beds increases your risk of developing melanoma
Regular foot checks can help you spot abnormalities early on. Check your feet each month for any suspicious spots, changes in moles, or dark patches of skin. Many moles are not a cause for concern. One rule of thumb is to follow the ABCDE method of detection. It stands for:
- A = Asymmetrical shape
- B = irregular Border
- C = Changes in Colour (look for moles with many or an uneven distribution of colours)
- D = Diameter (look for growth larger than ~6 mm)
- E = Evolving
Doing a thorough analysis of your feet, which takes just seconds, allows you to monitor any developments close to real-time, if not shortly after.
Common Summer Foot Conditions
It’s not just the sun you should worry about in the summer. The heat and humidity are grounds for a number of foot conditions to develop.
Blisters: Moisture is a prime breeding ground for blisters. This condition occurs when a small fluid-filled bubble forms just under the top layer of your skin. Using moisturizer (which strengthens your skin’s protective properties and makes it less vulnerable to blisters), foot powders (to counteract excessive foot sweat), wearing moisture-wicking socks, and properly-fitted footwear are all preventative measures to avoid blisters.
Cracked Heels: Summer heat makes you more prone to dehydration, contributing to dry skin, and thus cracked heels. Additionally, the prospect of going barefoot is particularly attractive in the summer making your feet more prone to the elements, whether it’s the beach or in the yard. Shop our selection of Gehwol products to help moisturize your feet.
Corns: Corns are frequently caused by shoes that don’t fit properly. In the summer, the culprit may be flip-flops or any ill-fitting or unsupportive shoe that puts pressure on hot spots like your toes or bony prominences.
Plantar fasciitis: Summer is flip flop season. Cheaper flip flops can have minimal arch support, putting your plantar under pressure. Over time, this aggravation can lead to plantar fasciitis. Stop this foot condition in its track by shopping sandals from Mephisto, FitFlop, Naot, and Clarks. FitFlop sandals in particular are engineered to address plantar fasciitis. For more information, check out our article about why we love FitFlop sandals.
A sunburn occurs when your skin has been exposed to too much ultraviolet (UV) light. It’s a form of radiation burn.
Common symptoms include changes in skin tone, skin that feels warm or hot to the touch, pain, tenderness, swelling, headaches or fever, or even small blisters.
Sunburns can vary in intensity. A mild sunburn is not a big deal, but over time, there is potential for long-term consequences. Sun damage can lead to cancerous changes in your skin, and your feet are no exception. A sunburn on your foot can also be particularly painful as it’s a tender part of your body. Pair that with the fact that we regularly wear socks and shoes, it’s hard to avoid aggravating the burn after the fact.
Fortunately, there are a number of at-home remedies you can use to reduce the pain and help heal sunburns. These include:
- Soak your feet in cool water or milk
- Use medication like acetaminophen to reduce pain
- Apply aloe vera to help soothe your skin
- Allow your blisters to heal on their own. Don’t pop them!
- Elevate your feet, which minimizes swelling
- Stay hydrated
Skin Damage Risk Factors
According to the Weather Network, UV rays can cause sunburns, eye cataracts, skin aging, and skin cancer. Nearby surface(s) can exacerbate the effects of UV rays. For example, being on the water, or in the snow (which isn’t relevant for our feet, but rather our body in general), can increase exposure because of the reflection off the ground. Extra precaution and protection are needed in these scenarios.
The strength of the sun, and in turn the strength of UV rays, also varies by time of day. The sun’s UV rays are strongest between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Full precautions are needed during these times in particular: Seek shade, cover-up, and wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Your local weather network will have a UV Index report that indicates the UV strength at various times of the day. The UV Index scale is between 1-11, with one being the lowest and minimal risk, and 11+ being the extreme and highest risk for skin damage. The higher the UV Index number, the stronger the sun’s rays, and the greater the need to take precautions.
The UV Index scale breaks down as follows:
|UV Index||Description||Sun Protection|
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