What you need to know: #NationalFlipFlopDay
Flip-flops might make you feel like you’re on vacation, but they’re actually making your feet work overtime.
Fun and fashionable, flip-flops have their place in your shoe closet, experts say. But they’re not meant to be worn with abandon — or else you may be courting foot pain.
When you wear the thonged sandals, you have to slightly “clench” your toes to keep them on and that’s not a natural position for your feet.
See for yourself: Take your shoes off. Take a step, paying attention to how your midfoot and toes bend at the end as your heel leaves the floor.
Now slightly “clench” your toes, curling them down toward the pads of your feet. Take another step. It doesn’t feel the same, does it? Your foot will be stiffer, and the step won’t “flow” like the first step.
But let’s face it, Flip-flops are a summertime staple. So wear them—but put a cap on the distance you travel in the sandals. Like anything else, moderation is key: Slipping flip flops on by the pool or for a short jaunt likely won’t cause any harm — the problems arise when your thongs become your go-to summer shoes.
This constant tension alters your gait, eventually causing muscular issues in your feet and calves. That can lead to the painful condition plantar fasciitis—also called “jogger’s heel”—when you run. You’ll feel a sharp shooting pain in the bottom of your heels with each step. In extreme cases, flip-flops may even be the cause of other lower-body issues like knee pain.
What’s their best purpose?
“Flip-flops give you some basic protection to the bottom of your foot to walk around poolside or on a surface that may be warm during the summer,” says Jim Christina, DPM, director of scientific affairs for the American Podiatric Medical Association.
Experts give flip-flops thumbs up for the poolside, thumbs down for foot pain
Why? “They let your foot be as flat as they can be,” Christina says. “For some people, that’s OK, depending on the structure of their foot. But if you have a foot that tends to over-flatten, then you’re not getting any support.
If you are walking in flip-flops for days on end with no support, it’s very common to see arch and heel pain.
Don’t overdo the flip-flops at home: everything in moderation. As long as you’re not doing a lot of walking, it’s probably OK. For example, To have flip-flops on for short periods of time to do errands, that’s usually not going to be a problem.
If you have foot pain and need an alternative to flip-flops and their flimsy support.
Bacteria and Fungal Infections
Truth: Any open-toed shoe in a dirty environment (think: campgrounds, the beach, pool, or locker room) can lead to infections if your feet are exposed to fungus. Remember, fungus loves moist, warm environments. So to curb your risk of skin or toenail infections, keep your feet clean and dry.
Flip flops tend to slip around on your foot more than a sneaker or flats, blisters are an inevitable part of wearing flip flops. Blame movement, moisture, and rubbing, says Ward. Of course, any shoe that doesn’t fit right can cause blistering, but flip flops are among the worst culprits because of their instability.
Heel and Toe Pain
Floppy sandals might not completely destroy your heels, but they could come close. Flip flops could cause serious pain or even conditions like plantar fasciitis, which occurs when the tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes becomes inflamed. See, the ligament that attaches your toes to your heel can stretch or even tear when it’s not appropriately supported. If you notice any redness, irritation or blisters developing between your toes, discontinue use of the flip-flops and find sandals that don’t separate your toes.
Your feet are the building blocks for how your ankles, knees, hips, back, and shoulders are aligned. Take away the building blocks (which is what you do when you wear shoes with little support) and you’re left with a weak foundation. This can cause everything else in your body to collapse or be poorly aligned, leading to pain and issues with your posture.
When you wear flip-flops, your toes and feet are exposed, making them susceptible to falling objects or people stepping on your toes.
Unlike sturdy shoes, flip-flops aren’t good for extensive walking because they offer no arch support, heel cushioning, or shock absorption, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). Wearers can suffer foot pain due to lack of arch support, tendinitis, and even sprained ankles if they trip.
When shopping for flip-flops, test their flexibility before buying them. Grab one end of the flip-flop in each hand and gently bend it. If the flip-flop bends in half, this means that it won’t offer any support for your foot. But if it gives a little in the ball of the foot, this means it will properly support your foot and will move with your foot while you’re walking.
The Auburn study indicates that the thongs in the middle mean you have to grip the shoe to keep it on. The thong can actually rub against the skin and causes ulcerations and sores. Also, when you have a toe thong, you tend to grip the shoe with your toes to try and keep it on. That alters your gait and puts strain on muscles you don’t normally use when you walk in regular shoes.
Also, a recent study found that men and women who wear flip-flops actually strike the ground with less force than when they wear sneakers, again altering the way you walk and causing you to take shorter steps, which may account for why people who wear them for extended periods experience lower leg pain and have more heel problems, such as heel spurs (little bony growths on the heel) and plantar strain (inflammation of the sheet of tissue covering the bottoms of the feet).
If you flip-flop your way through lazy summer days, don’t forget: your exposed feet need sunscreen, too. Because your feet are exposed to the sun, it’s important to cover them with sunscreen when your wear flip-flops. It’s easy to forget your feet when applying sunscreen, but it’s a crucial area to protect. Those little brown spots of sun damage that can eventually turn into skin cancer can be difficult to detect on the feet, especially if they’re on or between the toes. So next time, you plan to have some fun in the sun, protect your feet first.
Skip The Flip-Flops If You Have Or Are Prone To Foot Injuries
If you have any foot injuries, it’s best to stay away from flip-flops until those injuries have healed. If you have diabetes, you should skip the flip-flops altogether as you may acquire an injury without feeling it. If you’re overweight, it’s best to wear a closed-in shoe that will provide more support for the feet, ankles and back.
[Related – Diabetic Foot Pain And Complications]
Driving Hazard (avoid driving in flip-flops)
Flip-flops can impair a driver’s control if they come off the foot and lodge under the brake or gas pedal, according to Bill Van Tassel, PhD, the American Automobile Association’s manager of driver training operations. “Whatever you wear on your feet, make sure it’s not so loose that it pops off and interferes with the pedals,” he says.
Decreasing the Dangers
Don’t fret: There is hope for cute summer shoes. For one, look for a sandal with more than one strap, which will help with stability, suggests Ward. An ankle strap or latch behind your heel may also help cut down how much the shoe moves on your foot.
So, enjoy your flip-flops, but just not all the time and without giving them any thought!
Your foot health should always be a priority. If you suffer from a foot/ankle condition the dedicated team of physicians and staff here at TOCA are here to help! For more information, questions or to schedule an appointment call 602-277-6211!