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May 19, 2023

Protect Your Feet This Summer

ThedaCare Provider Says Wear the Proper Shoe for Your Activity

Keeping our feet safe might seem like a low priority when shopping for shoes and sandals, but it should be one of our top considerations. Having footwear that supports our body properly not only protects our feet, it can also help avoid problems with our ankles, knees, hips and spine in the long term.

“Our feet are our body’s foundation,” said Michal Kozanek, M.D. Ph.D., an orthopedic specialist and surgeon with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care. “They support our entire body and contribute to our balance, posture, the alignment of our spine and general well being.”

Dr. Kozanek noted there are 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons in our foot, which underscores why wearing good shoes is so important.

As we move from cold weather into the warmth of summer, many of us are anxious to leave behind the heavy shoes and boots we’ve needed to keep our feet warm and avoid falling on the snow or ice. Now, we look forward to wearing more fashionable footwear and letting our toes wiggle in sand or soft grass. For many, there is a sense of freedom in having their feet exposed to the air.

Dr. Kozanek said it’s fine to enjoy that sense of freedom, with a few caveats for safety.

“Sandals that offer some support for the arch and ankle are the best choice,” he said. “I recommend wearing a sandal that has a strap around the back of the foot to avoid having to grip your toes to keep the sandal on. Gripping your toes for long periods of time can lead to tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and hammertoes, which can become serious problems.”

For that same reason, he’s not a big fan of flip-flops.

“I’d say flip-flops are appropriate for short-term beachwear, when showering at your local gym or lounging around at home when you’re not engaged in any physical activity,” he said. “They simply don’t provide the support needed for most activities.”

And, don’t forget sunscreen for the top of your feet when wearing any kind of sandal. The skin on the tops of our feet is generally quite tender. Sunburn on our feet can be a painful experience.

Summertime also means we frequently engage in outdoor sports activities. Dr. Kozanek said it’s important to make sure your shoe supports the activity you plan to engage in.

“If you’re planning to walk or run outdoors, you might want to consider taking the time to get a professionally fitted walking or running shoe,” he said.

Shoe technology has made great advances in recent years and having a good fitting shoe will help you enjoy your activity more and prevent long-term injuries.

“If you’re going hiking, wear a boot that has good tread and supports your arch and ankle,” he noted. “If you’re heading off on a boating adventure, including canoeing or kayaking, wear a water shoe that prevents you from slipping on wet surfaces and protects your toes and the bottom of your feet from underwater hazards. If you’re heading to the beach, flip-flops might be your footwear of choice, but that’s one of the few places they are appropriate.”

Dr. Kozanek does not recommend walking barefoot for any length of time indoors or outdoors.

“Going barefoot offers no arch support,” he said. “Many people have flat feet or their feet roll inward (pronation) or outward (supination); going barefoot does nothing to prevent either of those rotations from happening, so having a house slipper that offers good arch support is important for almost everyone.”

Outdoors, going barefoot also opens us up to picking up a fungus, viral or bacterial infection.

Lastly, Dr. Kozanek recommends that women limit how often they wear high heels.

“It’s not natural for the human foot to be propped up or wedged into a tight shoe,” he said. “Wearing such high heels regularly for an extended period of time can definitely contribute to a variety of foot problems, including bunions, hammertoes, and sprained ankles. I’d suggest wearing such shoes only for special occasions.”

Overall, Dr. Kozanek knows summer in Wisconsin is a great time for people to enjoy the outdoors, and he encourages people to get outside as much as possible.

“The important thing is just to make sure your footwear is appropriate for the activity you plan to engage in so that your foot – and the rest of your body – is properly supported,” he said. “Then, take your time easing into your outdoor activities and have a wonderful, safe summer.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.