It's nearly summer, when the living is easy -- and your feet have to work twice as hard.
When the weather warms, your toes want to get out and play just as much as the rest of you. But sandals, flip-flops and women's little strappy high-heeled shoes all pose potential problems for your feet.
Dr. Johnny C. Benjamin, director of Medical Specialty Procedures Surgery Center in Vero Beach, Fla., says he's not against wearing airy footwear.
"You just have to be smart when you do it," he says. "Especially in cold-weather climates, people are cooped up for several months a year. Now they get spring fever and just want to get out and enjoy life."
Benjamin understands. But he says people don't consider the drawbacks of casual open-toed shoes, and before long, they're developing unexpected aches and pains and wondering where it all went wrong.
Larry Schneider, owner of Good Feet stores in California, says casual summer shoes cause problems when they don't fit right.
"Make sure somebody actually measures your foot," he says. "You'd be surprised how many people come in here, and they wore size 10 when they were 25 years old. Now they're 50 years old, and they still think they wear size 10."
It's not just the length of your feet but their shape that matters. Good Feet specializes in arch support, and Schneider says there are all kinds of variables when it comes to finding the right fit.
"You and I may both have a size-10 foot," he says. "But the distance between your heel and the ball of your foot may be different than mine."
Even when they know their size, some women are tempted to go smaller when choosing a cute pair of heels.
"They look great," Schneider says. "But you're stuffing your foot into a shoe that doesn't fit, and you're all on your toes."
As for stilettos, Benjamin says that while they may be popular, "they're not real good for your feet."
"It's stressing all of the weight, basically, on your tiptoes," he says. "If a person could imagine walking on her tiptoes for 6-8 hours a day, how much stress would that put on her foot?"
Benjamin suggests that women who want to wear stilettos do so for short stretches by wearing sneakers during commutes or even while sitting at their desks.
"When you actually have to go to that meeting that you're going to, that you're trying to look so fabulous for, now's the time for the stilettos," he says.
Keep in mind that the wider the heel, the more balance you'll have, and the less weight will be distributed solely on your toes.
"Get as wide a heel as the fashionistas will allow," Benjamin says.
Ross Nishijima, a podiatrist, says flip-flops also should not be worn all day.
"I wear them all the time, washing the car or going to the store," he says. "They're great. You just slip them on, and off you go. (But) there's not much support in that type of shoe. For most people, if you're not going to wear them for long, fine. But walking, hiking, a day at Disneyland, they're probably not appropriate."
People often wear flip-flops where they know their feet will get wet. Benjamin says moisture can lead to fungi, so daily washings and, especially, drying, are essential to healthy feet.
Flip-flops also have little stability. Benjamin says running in them is a bad idea.
"But a person just thinks, 'I'll run here,' or, 'I'll run there real quick,' for a few short steps, and your foot slides out of the sandal, you go down and end up with a nasty ankle injury," he says.
Another accident waiting to happen: "Cutting the lawn with a lawn mower while you're wearing flip-flops," Benjamin says.
"You've seen it done a million times. Not a great idea."
Wearing appropriate open-toed shoes has never been easier, Nishijima says. There are comfortable sandals designed specifically for walking and golfing, among other activities.
Schneider's store sells sandals with removable insoles, making it easier to offer customers inserts with the proper arch support.
Summer footwear is all about comfort and style. But Benjamin says while you're looking good, make sure you don't have one foot in the grave danger of developing a chronic problem.
"If you're trying to get out and enjoy life and nature," he says, "use some common sense, so you don't end up trading your sandal for a cast."