Sporting flip-flops and sandals can be tough on your feet, leaving them vulnerable to injuries. Take it all in stride with tips from three experts.

By Mallory Creveling

The podiatrist says lotion up. “Skin is your greatest barrier against infections,” notes Grace Torres-Hodges, DPM, a doctor in Pensacola, FL, and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association. Sand, saltwater and sunburn can cause intense dryness and cracks that make it easier for germs to enter the body. Keep feet hydrated by rubbing on moisturizers with vitamin E, aloe or shea butter every day, preferably after a shower. Don’t forget to apply—and reapply—SPF to soles (they’re often bare on the beach) and tops of feet to decrease your risk of skin cancer.

The physical therapist says shop smart. Wearing flat footwear forces your arches to collapse and puts extra pressure on your toes or heels, which can eventually produce painful problems like plantar fasciitis, explains Brian Hoke, a sports PT expert for Vionic Shoes. Instead, purchase a sandal that has a heel cup, a raised midfoot and enough cushioning that pushing on it leaves a dent. Vionic, Reef and OluKai all have supportive, stylish options.

The biomechanist says stretch well. Toes grip flip-flops as a way to keep them on. Counteract that tension by standing with one leg behind you, tucking your toes and placing them on the floor so the front of your foot stretches, suggests Katy Bowman, author of Whole Body Barefoot. Clutching your toes can also lead to tight calves. Loosen them up by sitting with your legs out straight and feet against a wall, then lowering your upper body toward your feet.