Ah, the summer is upon us and the 178th Erie County Fair (Aug. 9-20) is here at last! Whilst most attendees won’t be flocking to the agricultural arena to see who took Grand Champion in the dairy show, they will be marching along the midway for wine slushies and deep-fried Oreos (I’m not judging). But with global warming’s sweltering heat, most will be dressed down, in tank tops & flip flops, and by the end of the day may find themselves with a bit of moderate-to-severe foot pain.
One thing to know: humans were not made to stand or walk on concrete for extended periods of time. Stone, and concrete surfaces were developed as a means for building stability, leveling, and durability in construction. When it comes to stress on the body, however, hard surfaces are pretty rough on our knees, feet, backs, and general bodily alignment.
This year’s Erie County Fair midway is over a mile long. Let’s face it, you don’t see everything in one pass, and most of us end up walking the length of the fairgrounds several times over just for food (fried dough, my old nemesis…). Aside from the 3-5 miles you’ll walk, you’ll also spend a good amount of time standing in lines. And while wearing your favorite pair of $5 discount flip-flops might sound like the best option, you’re actually making things worse on your feet.
Flip-flops are generally unsupportive, and their lack of support can land you with some horrible prizes, and I don’t mean the “large” 3-inch stuffed animal you won at Ring Toss. Plantar fasciitis inflammation and micro-tearing of the tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes, is the prize you can win. While it isn’t life-threatening it can take MONTHS to heal, and affect your ability to stand, walk, and, in some cases, work. This condition affects over 3 million Americans each year, and requires daily rehabilitation exercises and stretches, special orthopedic shoes, or even surgery to correct.
Now, I’m not trying to scare you out of wearing comfortable or stylish summer footwear, but you definitely need to be aware of what you put on your feet. Generally a supportive running shoe or hiking boot is best on a hard surface; however, these can be too hot and cause some funky smells by the end of the day, so I’ve found you some supportive footwear options for your fair-going needs:
-Keen: $50-100 ~ Men’s & Women’s options
Keen brand shoes offer men’s and women’s sandals and closed-toed sandals with built-in arch support. While they have a higher price tag than the bargain bin sandals, these will last you a few summers, are often waterproof, and have decent arch support.
-Birkenstock: $80-140 ~ Men’s & Women’s options
You’ll pay a few dollars more for the Birkenstock name unfortunately, but they make one heck of a sandal. The arch support is made of cork, which over time actually molds to the shape of your arch and foot, making it almost like a custom orthotic support.
-Ecco: $60-130 ~ Stylish for Men
Ecco is well known for their high-end dress shoes, but they also make some pretty supportive sandals. The only downside is that all Ecco sandals come in European sizing, so you will have to do some conversion.
-Dansko: $50-140 ~ Stylish for Women
There is a reason why almost every doctor and nurse wears Dansko shoes, but did you know that Dansko has some really fashionable women’s sandals that offer the same kind of support? When selecting a good walking sandal from Dansko, go with something with a low heel, as it puts less strain on the feet while walking.
So, there you have it. Invest a few dollars in your feet and save yourself from future aches and pains. Your focus during the Erie County Fair this year should be winning that sweet John Cena poster from the Balloon-Pop game and eating BBQ alligator tail, not plantar fasciitis. This year, be mindful of your body while taking part in this 178-year-old WNY tradition, and please, stop wearing horrible shoes.
Photo by Clay Davies