Take steps toward community education, timely intervention

  Tuesday, April 25, 2023

By Karen Villarreal

April is National Foot Health Awareness Month

HARLINGEN, TEXAS – APRIL 25, 2023 –  April is National Foot Health Awareness monthand Dr. Javier La Fontaine, dean of the UTRGV School of Podiatric Medicine, is urging the Valley community to stay vigilant for foot or ankle problems.

“In our region, we have so many cases of diabetes, and that can lead to foot problems,” La Fontaine said. “It’s good for the community to know some of the things we can do to take care of the feet.”

La Fontaine shared some general foot health tips, and offered specific information for parents and diabetics.


Choosing Socks and Shoes: “Wearing appropriate, comfortable shoes and socks can prevent many foot problems,” he said. “If your activity level is high, like walking a lot at your job, you need to be wearing walking shoes. Wear dressing shoes for limited time periods to avoid shoe-related problems.”

White, 100 percent cotton socks are the wiser choice. Darker colors tend to keep the foot hot, dark and moist, a perfect environment for fungal growth.

“I know kids like socks with designs, but try to choose light colors and breathable materials for them,” he said.

Also, pantyhose or thin, breathable socks are more protection than no socks at all.

Check Your Size: Many people don’t have the right fit on their shoes, La Fontaine said.  

“When the tip of your longest toe touches the shoe material, that is usually a half-size too small,” he said.

That increases pressure, which can cause toe deformities, ingrown toenails, blisters, corns, or callouses.

“Shop for new shoes at the end of the day, when they feet are swollen, and keep about a thumb-space between the longest toe and the tip of shoe.”

Think Long-Term Support: La Fontaine is not a fan of the style of rubber clogs so many people use. The colorful clog doesn’t provide foot support in three crucial areas: the heel, the arch, and the “vamp,” or top of the foot.

“People like them because they’re wide, and have ample space for the toes, so they feel comfortable,” he said. “But if you’re walking all day in those, you’re not getting the support needed. Therefore, other painful problems may arise, and you might not realize that is attributed to the shoe.”

Practice Foot Hygiene: The Valley is a hot, humid area, so skin problems on feet – like athlete’s foot– can become serious infections and can transmit among the household, La Fontaine said.

“Tinea, or athlete’s foot, is very ubiquitous. Wear sandals at the gym and in pool showers, and dry your feet thoroughly before putting on socks,” he said.

Dr. Javier La Fontaine, dean of the UTRGV School of Podiatric Medicine
Dr. Javier La Fontaine, dean of the UTRGV School of Podiatric Medicine, is urging the Valley community to stay vigilant for foot or ankle problems. (UTRGV Photo)


La Fontaine advises that people with diabetes check their feet daily for developing blisters, ingrown nails, hot spots, or redness. 

“A wound in a person with diabetes should be looked at by a professional,” he said. 

Also, compression socks can offer relief from swollen ankles.

“Once it’s ruled out that the swelling isn’t related to systemic problems such as the heart or kidneys, very light compression levels of 15-20 mmHg (the over-the-counter standard) are helpful,” he said.


Athletic or activity-related acute injuries will need professional attention. If there is acute pain swelling, bruising, and the inability to put weight on the foot – seek help.

“It can be a hidden fracture that plain radiographs will not detect. You need to reach out your podiatrist for immediate care,” La Fontaine said.

Some acute maladies may improve after one- or two-days rest in otherwise healthy individuals. 

“Clicking sounds are remaining inflammation and that should go away over time. If symptoms stay the same or it gets worse, get it looked at by a podiatrist,” he said.


La Fontaine reminds parents that children grow through phases in their walking development, and their ability to walk cannot be compared to an adult’s. 

“A toddler who is just barely walking will tip-toe, and that’s normal at that age. But if you notice that your child does not walk like other kids their age, bring them in for a check-up,” he said.

And, while parents often hold a child’s hand when walking for safety, La Fontaine said it can be detrimental for little feet between the ages of 1 and 4, when their walking pace is much slower than the adult’s pace.

“Forcing the child to keep up with an adult often turns the kid’s feet inward as the child is being pulled,” he said. “We should walk at their pace.”


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.