For some people, nothing says summer more than feeling warm sand between their toes, dangling their feet in water and walking around in flip-flops or sandals or even barefoot. But those signs of summer relaxation should be done judiciously by people who wear functional foot orthoses, diabetic inserts and ankle-foot orthoses.

People who have prescription orthoses wear them because they have a medical condition, such as plantar fasciitis, that warrants the prescription. For example, PAL Health Technologies’ orthotics relieve plantar fasciitis by providing a layer of cushioning, which adds shock absorption and helps to alleviate pain. Going without wearing them for an extended period of time is not a good idea because inflammation and pain could result.

The same goes for people with diabetic inserts. A person with diabetic neuropathy experiences damaged nerves in the legs and feet, meaning they may have numbness. One danger of not wearing diabetic inserts is people, who can’t feel their feet, not realizing that they are getting sunburn from exposing their feet for a period of time on the beach, at the pool or even in the backyard.

People with ankle instability, a giving way of the outer side of the ankle, or drop foot -- difficulty lifting the front part of the foot because of a neurological, muscular or anatomical problem – benefit from ankle-foot orthoses. Not wearing them increases the risk of falls.

Whether people who wear orthoses or inserts can wear flip-flops, sandals or go barefoot from time to time during summer depends on patients’ current symptoms, pathology and activity level, said Jonathan Leach, PAL Health orthotist. Of course, going barefoot or wearing flip-flops shouldn’t be done to walk long distances, do yard work or exercise because you have no shock absorption, arch support and are at risk of sprains and breaks.

“If you have a history of plantar fasciitis and manage being symptom free from stretching, good footwear and use of custom orthoses, you are more than likely to be fine spending a day by the pool in flip-flops,” Leach said. “As your activity level increases, you generate greater tensile forces to the plantar fascia and do become more susceptible to having mild to moderate symptoms the next day or so depending on the quality of your soft tissues. People with more chronic symptoms or pathology would really want to pay attention to the activity level of their day if they plan on downsizing the assistive devices their feet are accustomed to. Once again, though, if you plan on having a restful day by the pool, as long as you don’t stub your exposed toes on anything, you more than likely will face no ill consequences.

“As I say to all my patients, ‘Dress your feet according to your activity level,’” Leach said.

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Paul Swiech is vice president of communications with PAL Health Technologies. Before he joined PAL, he was a newspaper reporter for 37 years. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and exercising.