Problems with Florida Feet - Beyond Flip-Flops
By Jennifer Smith / November, December 2012

Chances are, if you live in south Florida long enough and don't protect your feet, you will experience some sort of foot problem. From flip-flops to high heels, Floridians love shoes that are often detrimental to their health. The warm climate encourages the wearing of open shoes that often lead to slip and fall injuries.

Dr. Dominick Sansone is a podiatrist with Broward Health North and Broward Health Imperial Point, who specializes in foot and ankle surgery. At his practice in Deerfield Beach, the most common complaint Dr. Sansone receives is aching feet, typically a result of shoes being too old and failing to offer the proper support.

"As soon as patients get new shoes, the mild aches go away," he says.

There are more serious complications that can be attributed to the type of shoes people choose to wear. This is especially true for women because of high heels. Dr. Sansone says, "Women are more susceptible to digital deformities, such as bunions and hammer toes, over time. The higher the heel, the more force is put on the front of the foot. One's whole body weight is put on the front of the foot and the toes are crammed into a small toe box. It's a deforming force."

Women are not the only ones who aren't always sensible about what shoes they wear. Men can be just as guilty by not replacing sneakers as often as necessary or failing to build up the strength necessary for weekend warrior activities and then suffering an acute injury.

Dr. Sansone says that sports injuries, such as sprains and fractures, are usually because shoes have been overused and are unable to absorb shock and dissipate force throughout the foot. "Sneakers are like tread on the tire," he says. "It's not how long you've had them; it's how much you use them." He also warns that many injuries are associated with crocs and sandals, due to improper support. Because these types of shoes are not tight like sneakers, there is a lack of rear foot support. Wearing crocs and sandals can lead to early arthritis, tendon disorders and flat feet. "Most people in south Florida walk around in unsupportive shoes, and that leads to more foot problems than people up north, who wear sneakers and boots," Dr. Sansone says.

As the weather is unlikely to change and women will never give up their stilettos, what steps can Floridians take to prevent injuries and minimize long-term impact from shoe choices? Dr. Sansone advises professional women to consider shortening their heels by an inch or so. Also, reduce the length of time heels are worn because, as he puts it, "they're going to catch up with you, eventually."

Dr. Sansone adds that it's not necessary to give up on flip-flops and less supportive shoes. In fact, his children have crocs and flip-flops. But, it comes down to wearing them at the appropriate times. "In south Florida, people are going to wear flip-flops," he says. "But, if your children are going to be playing, put them in sneakers. If you're just hanging out in the backyard, crocs are fine."

If you are experiencing a foot problem or symptoms, Dr. Sansone says that you should seek medical attention sooner rather than later, as many foot problems are easily curable, if you address them early. If you brush those symptoms aside, you can be causing damage that will be harder to resolve and ultimately require surgery.

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