Strolling Barefoot on the Beach this Labor Day Weekend Could be Hazardous to Your Feet!

Strolling Barefoot on the Beach this Labor Day Weekend Could be Hazardous to Your Feet!


Bacteria, Fungi, Parasites, Sharp Objects and Viruses  – Oh My!

“Walking barefoot on the beach and sinking your toes into the warm, soft sand can feel amazing.  However, that lovely inviting sand can pose numerous hazards to your feet (and overall health), which can quickly lead to an unplanned trip to the doctor’s office,” said podiatric foot and ankle specialist Diane Branks, DPM.

“Summer sand can get VERY HOT!  Walking barefoot on hot sand can torch the bottoms of your feet, resulting in painful blisters and serious burns which should be evaluated by a podiatric physician right away,” says Dr. Branks, President-Elect of the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA). 

“Additionally, lurking beneath and within beach sand can be sharp shells, shards of glass and slivers of metal, which means that one wrong barefoot step could result in a cut or puncture wound on your foot.  If you do sustain a cut/puncture wound to your foot, wash it with soapy water (clean, freshwater—not seawater) right away to remove the sand and help prevent bacteria from setting in before covering it with a waterproof bandage.  If the cut/wound is deep, after washing it see a podiatric physician immediately to ensure that no ligaments, muscles, nerves or tendons of the foot have been damaged,” said Dr. Branks, a board-certified podiatric physician and surgeon.

Dr. Branks noted that stinging jellyfish can also be a hazardous when walking barefoot on the beach.  “They (jellyfish) frequently wash up on beaches, are small and difficult to see.  When stepped on, they wrap their tentacles around the foot, injecting their venom that results in a painful sting (if not worse).  If stung by a jellyfish, try to remove it without touching it directly with your hands; rinse the affected area with vinegar (if available) or seawater and have the area checked by your healthcare provider right away,” Dr. Branks said.

Hot sand, sharp object and jellyfish are not the only dangers potentially encountered when walking barefoot on the beach, according to Dr. Branks. 

“Beach sand can harbor a variety of harmful pathogens, some of which includes: bacteria (Salmonella and E. coli), parasites (hookworms and roundworms), viruses (Norovirus, Hepatitis A) and fungi that can lead to skin and nail infections like ringworm and Athletes Foot, to name a few,”1 said Dr. Branks.  “The best way to protect your feet from this myriad of beach sand dangers is to wear shoes at the beach.  There is a wide variety of attractive, lightweight beach and water shoes made from breathable materials on the market today that can help protect feet when at the beach,” says Dr. Branks.

Dr. Branks stressed that wearing shoes on the beach is a MUST for those with diabetes. 


“Those living with diabetes face serious foot safety risks at the beach. Diabetes is a systemic disease that causes poor blood circulation and can result in numbness in the feet.  Meaning that a person living with diabetes may not feel pain from a cut, puncture wound or burn. Any type of skin break on a diabetic foot has the potential to get infected and ulcerate if it isn't noticed right away. Those living with diabetes should ALWAYS wear shoes to the beach and remove them regularly to check for foreign objects like sand, shells and glass that can cause sores, ulcers and infections, which is not promptly and properly treated could lead to amputation.

“If you are not a diabetic and you simply must walk barefoot on the beach, take protective precautions for your feet,” Dr. Branks continued. “Avoid walking on the beach in the middle of the day when the sun is most intense and the sand hottest. Watch for sharp or jagged objects in the sand. Stay hydrated and apply sunscreen to exposed areas of your body, including your FEET – top and bottom.  After leaving the beach, wash your feet in clean, warm soapy water, thoroughly dry them and check them for any abrasions, cuts or breaks in the skin.  Continue to check them daily for any signs of swelling or redness.  If you experience any discomfort or pain in your feet, see a podiatric foot and ankle specialist for evaluation. 

“Finally, shifting beach sand is an unstable surface to walk on, and can lead to pain in the arch and heel.  It also increases the risk of injury, especially in the ankle. If you do sustain an injury and are experiencing foot pain, heel pain, toe pain, arch or ankle pain that does not go away with a day or so of rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE), see a podiatric physician right away,” Dr. Branks in closing.

Dr. Branks also recommended packing a foot first aid kit for the beach:

  • Beach/water shoes
  • Flip flops—for the pool, spa, hotel room, and airport security check points – But NOT for walking on the beach
  • Bottled water – for hydration and to use to wash any cuts or abrasions
  • Antiseptic wipes – for cut or abrasions
  • Sterile bandages—for covering minor cuts and scrapes
  • Antibiotic cream—to treat any skin injury
  • Emollient-enriched cream—to hydrate feet
  • Blister pads or moleskin—to protect against blisters
  • Motrin or Advil (anti-inflammatory)—to ease tired, swollen feet
  • Toenail clippers—to keep toenails trimmed
  • Emery board—to smooth rough edges or broken nails
  • Pumice stone—to soften callused skin
  • Sunscreen—to protect against the scorching sun
  • Aloe Vera or Silvadene cream—to relieve sunburns


 To find a local licensed California doctor of podiatric medicine please go to

CPMA - Doctors Dedicated to Keeping Californians on Their FEET!

Founded in 1912, the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) is the leading professional organization for California’s licensed doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs). DPMs are podiatric physicians and surgeons, also known as podiatrists, qualified by their rigorous education, training and experience to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and structures of the leg.

1   (Source: Mary Jo Dilonardo │7 unsavory things waiting for you at the beach│ Mother Nature Network)