Protecting your feet at the beach.
Coming from Chicago, it is safe to assume that I did not spend much time basking in the warmth of the sun while sipping an island drink. In fact, the most sand I encountered was at the local playground where my kids would play. Fortunately being away from the beach did potentially decrease my risk of foot injuries.
After living in Tampa for one month the family and I finally had the chance to discover the finest beaches of Florida. We ventured out to Honeymoon Island and during that excursion I suffered my first foot injury at the beach. Honeymoon Island is a beautiful beach but underneath the surface of the water there is a rough rocky terrain. In fact my wife could not even tolerate walking out into the water because the rocks were so jagged. I of course, ignorantly braved the rocks with my flip flop sandals on, and ended up cutting my foot on a rock even with the protection of my sandals!
This incident is what inspired me to write this blog. So here is a list of common injuries of the foot when at the beach.
Cut, Scrapes, and Abrasions
Anyone can injure their skin anywhere but there is a higher chance of it at the beach due to several factors. The biggest factor being we are not watching where we step. Underneath the water lies an unfamiliar terrain which contains multiple potential hazards. I mentioned sharp rocks, but you may also encounter, broken shells, coral, sea urchins, glass, splinters, branches, even toys that were left behind. These hazards are also covered up by the sand and are just waiting to be stepped on. To add to the problems, there are millions of organisms in the ocean that can potentially lead to infection of the foot or even leg and can sometimes be emergent. We all heard of the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus being present in sea water but that is just one of the many possible bacteria that can cause an infection. So what are we supposed to do? Keep it simple. Wear protective shoes if you suspect any hazards at the beach. The type of shoe I am going to be purchasing is your basic aqua shoe. It is porous enough to have me move freely through the water and has a durable sole so that it provides protection for my feet from any sharp objects that may be hidden from view. This is the simplest and most cost effective solution.
Ankle Sprains and Strains
The warm sand between your toes can be therapeutic but the effort in trudging through the sand to get to that perfect spot on the beach may cause some discomfort. The human foot consists of 26 bones, multiple joints that act as mobile adapters to the terrain that we walk upon. When we walk on uneven or unstable terrain like rocks or sand, we place strain on the ligaments and joints of the foot and ankle. Sometimes prolonged walking can cause you to over strain your foot thus leading to injury. The tendons of your foot may also become strained due to the body wanting to stabilize the foot while walking through the sand. The more walking leads to overuse and can possibly lead to plantar fasciitis and even achilles tendinitis. The way we can protect ourselves from these injuries is to consider wearing supportive shoes when walking long distances on the beach. A quick stroll is not something to worry about unless you have symptoms occurring after a short period of time. In that case I would consider utilizing a sandal with a good arch support or even a supportive athletic shoe. For those of you who have chronic ankle sprains, an ankle support sleeve may not be a bad idea to help stabilize your foot and ankle when walking.
The tip of the nose, ears, and top of the foot are some of the most common places we neglect when applying sunscreen to our bodies. The sun is definitely present in full force here in Tampa and therefore we need to do our best to protect ourselves from the sun as best as possible. I subscribe to the philosophy of too much of anything is bad and this applies to exposure to the sun. Multiple studies have shown that prolonged exposures to the sun increases your risk of developing skin lesions and that applying sunscreen will dramatically reduce that risk. Generally it is recommended that 30 spf be used but some say more importantly are the ingredients is what counts. Zinc oxide seems to be the winner in blocking the harmful rays of the sun but I think the general rule of 30 spf or above is a safe bet. You also have to apply sunscreen frequently (approx every 2 hours) especially if you are in and out of the water or sweating.
All of these risks at the beach are worrisome but they are not going to stop me from enjoying the beautiful beaches of Florida. Taking the proper precautions is the simple way of preventing big problems. I enjoy the path of least resistance through life and with these simple steps you too can fully enjoy what Florida beaches have to offer.