The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Summer Safety Alert: 3 Reasons Podiatrists Are Not Fans of Flip-Flops

Posted by on Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Summers tend to be a busy time for The Center for Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine in New York. It’s not just the fact that people want to look and feel better while they are enjoying the great outdoors during the fair weather months — although that is certainly a contributing factor. We also believe many of the injuries and ailments we treat are directly related to footwear choice. You’d be hard-pressed to find a podiatrist who advocates those flimsy foam pieces, better known as flip-flops. We’ll give you three good reasons why you may want to save this type of footwear solely for the beach and around the pool.

flip flop dangers
Flip-flops are not meant to be worn around town all summer long.
Image Source: Kai Schreiber via Wikimedia.org

Gait Alteration & Biomechanical Injuries

In 2008, Auburn University researchers followed 39 college students around to assess how footwear choice affected their gait. They found that thong-style flip-flops largely resulted in sore feet, ankles, and legs.  “We found that when people walk in flip-flops, they alter their gait, which can result in problems and pain from the foot up into the hips and lower back,” said biomechanics doctoral student Justin Shroyer.

Flip-flop wearers took shorter strides, struck their heels against the ground with less vertical force, and scrunched their toes up more during the leg’s swing phase. ‘They land on the outside and then roll the foot inwards putting all the pressure on the big toe. This constant rolling puts pressure on the ankle joint, causing it to weaken,” said Mike O’Neill, spokesman for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists in the UK, who was not affiliated with the Auburn University study.

These changes can result in a myriad of problems, such as:

– Bunion and hammertoe development

– Plantar fasciitis heel pain

– Flattened arches

– Metatarsal stress fractures

– Back pain

– Tendonitis

– Sprained ankles

– Shin splints

– Fat pad degradation in the foot

The study findings do not suggest that flip-flops should be thrown in the trash, said Shroyer — who admittedly owns a pair. They can be beneficial at the beach or as a post-game alternative to dirty sports cleats. They are not designed for everyday use and should be replaced every three to four months, Shroyer added.

Greater Exposure to Injury

There is a reason why construction workers wear steel-toe boots and not flip-flops on site. Exposed feet are more vulnerable to falling objects, stubbed toes, sunburn, bruises, lacerations, and bug bites. We see a lot of ingrown, bruised, or infected toenails this time of year, which wouldn’t happen with more substantial foot coverings. There are very few scientific studies proving the increase in minor foot injuries related to flip-flop wear, but podiatrists say at least one person comes into the office with tell-tale signs of flip-flop wear and tear each day from May through September.

Foot Fungus

Barefoot advocates argue that trapping the feet inside shoes is what really causes foot fungus like athlete’s foot and the oh-so-stubborn toenail fungus. We find that to be only half true. Germs need the right climate to thrive, but — more importantly — they need to be picked up by a host and given a chance to transfer from one surface to the next. One study by the University of Miami discovered that one pair of flip-flops contained over 18,000 bacteria, including respiratory germs from fecal matter and yeast infection-causing fungus. Another study by reporters at the NY Daily News found 13,900 bacteria on a brand new pair of flip-flops worn around Coney Island, Prospect Park, and the subway for less than a week.

New York Flip-Flop Pain Treatment

Get treatment for your flip-flop pain and injuries at The Center for Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine. We offer a team of board-certified podiatrists, podiatric surgeons, and physical therapists. Our primary goals are alleviating pain immediately and helping you lead an active lifestyle. We offer innovative treatments like laser nail fungus removal, pulse activation therapy, and stem cell injections. For your convenience, you may book your appointment at our Manhattan or Westchester, NY centers online!

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.