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Put your best foot forward this sandal season

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Up and down Westminster Avenue and all around the Wolseley-Wellington Loop, sandalistas are revealing radiant pedicures and polished toes. From flip-flops to mesh-topped runners, with clogs and Birkenstocks in between.

Wolseleyites may be in vogue this spring, but are they flouting foot health for style?

"That depends," says former Wolseley resident Martin Colledge, podiatrist and registrar of the College of Podiatrists of Manitoba.

"When choosing footwear, think about what you plan to do when wearing the shoe, how functionally stable your feet are and how well your feet can tolerate abuse."  

Sandals are more than figuratively cool. Dr. Colledge notes the average person perspires two-thirds of a cup of moisture per foot daily. So, in the summer heat, evaporation readily cools a sandaled foot.

Sandals are generally lighter and less restrictive than other footwear. People with bony protuberances, such as bunions or hammertoes, may find sandals more comfortable because sandal uppers tend to be compliant and forgiving compared to shoes.

On the flip side, sandals are generally less protective, making the foot more vulnerable to trauma. This is particularly problematic for people with loss of feeling or circulation in their feet, which may occur with diabetes.

Flip-flops and other unstructured sandals can pose stability problems. Feet can slide excessively in backless sandals and elevated heels, increasing stress.

At Prana Yoga studio at Portage Avenue and Sherburn Street (where I attend classes), instructors and students wear no shoes at all. There, the surface is safe and feet are the subject of close study.

Studio owner, instructor and Wolseley resident Sandra Stuart says "Healthy feet are necessary for healthy knees and a healthy spine. It all starts with our foundation, our connection to Mother Earth."

Together, both feet comprise a quarter of the bones in our body. Each foot has 26 bones, 33 muscles, 31 joints and over 100 ligaments and tendons.

The College of Podiatric Physicians of Alberta website states "The average person takes 8,000 to 10,000 steps each day…. With each step, a gravity induced pressure of about three to four times the body’s weight bears down on each foot."

So, lovely as toe-baring sandals may be, the real marvel is bearing your weight, keeping your balance and moving.

As Leonardo da Vinci observed, "The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art." Enjoy the street gallery. But be a good curator, too.

Gail Perry is a community correspondent for Wolseley.

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