The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Flip Flops Flop Foot Health Test

Posted by on Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

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Ah, spring! With unseasonably warm temperatures in the northeast heralding (hopefully) an early spring, it’s no wonder that after a long winter of boots and socks, a young girl’s fancy should turn to open toed, barely there shoes. But be careful–while these shoes may allow you to show off your pedicures and ankle bracelets (if you’re not sold on the appeal of ankle bracelets, I beg you to pay attention to Barbara Stanwyck’s entrance in “Double Indemnity.” Trust me on this one.), they may also be hurting your feet.

I can hear you groaning–oh no, not ANOTHER rant against stilettos. Can’t you just leave my spike heels alone for one day? Wait, though–today we’re not giving you another warning against the high heeled pointy toed scourge. Today we are warning you against…flip flops.

What?!! The happy little flip flop? The joyful little flip flop that reminds you of days at the pool or at the beach when you were eight? The flip flop that you can just slide on and go out the door, no laces or straps required? The flip flop that slaps happily against the ground as you walk outside on a lovely sunny day?

Yes. And I say that with a heavy heart, because I am a flip flop addict. I love how they let my feet breathe, and I love that they’re cheap enough that I can pick up several pairs in various colors and fill out my summer wardrobe that way. But alas, they are not doing my feet any favors.

Here are the issues:

  • Lack of support. I guess it should be fairly self-evident that the simple flip flop doesn’t offer any support to your arches. You won’t notice this if you have flat feet, but you will if you have regular or high arches (note: I have high arches and I have found flip flops that offer some arch support; they are more expensive than average flip flops, though). Without any arch support, your feet will likely roll inward which can lead to arch injuries or the dreaded plantar fasciitis. They can even cause non-flat footed people to become flat footed if worn too much.
  • Too much stress! A research study at Auburn University found that flip flop wearers kept the shoes on by gripping with their curled toes,which caused them to shorten their stride and adjust their way of walking. A shorter stride transfers the force of each foot strike from your feet to your legs. Too much of that and you have yourself a leg injury, my friend.
  • Flat. Flip flops put your feet in a perfectly flat position and keep them there. That means your Achilles tendon at its most stretched out, and that can lead to nasty Achilles injuries. You don’t want one of them.
  • Sharp. Flip flops offer your feet no protection whatsoever from the junk on the sidewalk, parking lot, or anywhere else you may wear them. If your flip flops are really thin-soled and you step on the wrong sharp object, that’s going right into your foot. Ouch.
  • Running joke. You’re with a bunch of your friends and someone starts an impromptu game of Frisbee or softball in the backyard. You join in–but wait! If you’re wearing flip flops, take them off or don’t play. As noted above, moving in flip flops changes your stride and that can cause you to injure yourself if you attempt to run in them. They also can fly off, get caught on something, or tangle with each other. During the summer, doctors see plenty of injuries that come from wearing flip flops while playing sports.
  • Lawn have mercy. Oh, and be careful about wearing flip flops while doing yard work. Do you really want your completely unprotected feet near a lawn mower, weed whacker, or even a sharp shovel? Your feet may be hotter, but you’ll be a lot safer if you wear sturdier shoes while taking care of that lawn.
  • Snakes in the grass, burns on the feet. And while you’re in that backyard, keep in mind that flip flops don’t offer you any protection from snakes, insects, or sunburn. The latter two can be dealt with by just making sure you remember to put some insect repellant or sunscreen on your feet (thought most people don’t remember that). The snakes, though, well, you’re on your own.
  • Road hazard. This is really serious. Your flip flop can slide off your feet and tangle with the pedals while you’re driving or you can lose focus if they come off and your attention slips over to getting them back on rather than the road. Don’t wear any articles of clothing or shoes that can distract you while you are driving.

Wow, that is grim stuff there. So am I expected to wear my boots all summer? No, just choose your flip flop battles more carefully. First, there’s no reason to stop wearing them for brief trips to the pool or the beach. If you do want to wear flip flops for longer periods of time and more intense walking, the Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine would recommend looking for sandals and flip flops that offer serious arch support), as well as a heel cup to hold your heel in place (I had great ones like these from Keen for a long time; Healthkicker also recommends FitFlop). Choose shoes that are not perfectly flat, but that offer a little bit of a rise in level or some kind of heel. Make sure that they are made out of solid, but somewhat flexible material. Beware of flip flops that are so thin something could pierce them, or that are so flexible that they can be bent in half. You might have to pay more for good summer shoes, but they’ll still cost a lot less than foot surgery.

If you do have some kind of foot injury or foot problem, flip flop related or not, just contact us at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.