The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Think Your Summer Footwear’s Safe? 5 Flip-Flop Injuries Waiting to Happen and How to Avoid Them

Posted by on Friday, July 24th, 2015


All summer long, New York podiatrists see an average of 10-15 patients a day with flip-flop-related injuries. At The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, we treat everything from acute emergencies to chronic pain issues. Flip-flops lack stability and arch support, which can lead to accidents. Flimsy straps dig into soft tissue, opening up the body for a host of infections and illnesses. In flip-flops your toes and heels are more open and exposed than with traditional shoes, offering more opportunities for injury, especially among the young and the elderly. Here are five of the most common flip-flop injuries we see at our Manhattan and Westchester practices.

flip flop injuries
Flip-flops have caused acute and chronic injuries to the feet of wearers. Image Source:

1. Fractured Toes

Dropping an item on exposed toes is the cause of many emergency room visits. Kids most commonly fracture their toes while riding bikes or by stubbing their toes while running in flip-flops. The lack of cushioning and support in flip-flop design can also cause stress fractures, as the toes continually must curl while walking in order to hold flip-flops on the feet. Like the podiatrist cited in Bustle, we’ve seen patients who wore their flip-flops for just a week or two while sightseeing on vacation and now have stress fractures in one or more toes.1

2. Missing Toenails

Wearing open-toed shoes all the time leaves the nails open to trauma or microbial infection, which can cause the toenail to fall off or even be ripped off in some cases.2 “I find that people come in on Monday morning with a toenail that is half on and half off because they have caught it on something over the weekend,” Dr. Lee Firestone, a Washington podiatrist, explains. “They have layers of tape and band-aids holding the toenail in place, with a level of desperation on their faces.”

3. Tendonitis

Flip-flops were designed for use around pool decks, beaches, and public showers — not for a lot of walking. The flimsy, minimalist footwear puts increased strain on the connective tissue of the feet — especially the Achilles tendon at the back of the foot and the plantar fascia along the bottom of the foot. Researchers from Auburn University found that “flipflops resulted in a shorter stride, a larger ankle angle at the beginning of double support and during the swing phase, a smaller braking impulse, and a shorter stance time compared with sneakers.”3 Anecdotal evidence suggests these gait cycle changes increase the risk of overuse injuries.4

4. Cracked Heels

While there are some benefits to allowing your feet to dry, especially when it comes to foot fungus prevention, there are also some drawbacks. Baring your heels all summer long causes excessive dryness, which can lead to fissures and other big problems. In severe cases, we’ve had to drain abscesses or go in surgically to stimulate wound healing. Foot infections like cellulitis or MRSA can be deadly. University of Miami researchers found that one pair of flip-flops contained more than 18,000 bacteria, including the types that cause yeast infection and diaper rash.5 A similar study of flip-flops that traveled around Coney Island bathrooms and New York subways identified pathogens found in “human feces, urine, spit, vomit and animal droppings.” If the skin becomes compromised in any way (like through a crack in the heel), these staph and e.coli microbes have easy entry into the body.

5. Strap-Related Wounds

Strap irritation and blisters become a real problem when they open the body up to infection. In general, the feet are a slow-healing part of the body due to narrower circulatory pathways and limited blood/oxygen supply. Furthermore, the cheap nature of flip-flops can sometimes backfire on wearers who just wanted inexpensive footwear. Back in 2007, a Florida woman developed severe chemical burns along the strap lines of her flip-flops after purchasing a cheap pair from China.6

Flip-flop Injury Treatment In NYC

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine is here to care for all of your flip-flop injuries this summer. We promise not to lecture you on your choice of footwear, but we are happy to provide suggestions when asked. Types of flip-flop alternatives recommended by the American Podiatric Medical Association include: Vionic Orthaheel, FitFlop, Chaco, and Naot sandals.7 They may cost more than the standard $10 pair you can pick up at Wal-Mart, but they offer arch and heel support, and in some cases straps made of leather to prevent irritation. Contact us to receive professional care for your summer foot injuries.




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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.