What Are Your Flip-Flops Doing to Your Feet…Ouch?

What Are Your Flip-Flops Doing to Your Feet…Ouch?

Flip-flops. Call them thongs, call them zories, these familiar casual sandals are the essence of summer. They’re easy to put on and slip off, and they’re just a whisper away from bare-footing it. They’re cheap and fun, coming in a million and one colors. Most amusing of all, they’re a wearable daily example of onomatopoeia–a word formed from a sound associated with what the word names, like sizzle, splash and rustle.

But are they good for your feet?

Most experts say no. The typical flip-flop is a thin sole held on by thin straps, and it lacks support for your foot. This cheap foot ware is fine for wearing in the shower at the campground to protect your feet from bacteria, or slipping on for a walk down the driveway to the mailbox, but it’s not recommended for extended wear.

Not only do they provide poor support for foot and arch, they force you to subtly clench your toes to keep them on. The constant low-level tension grip your toes alters your stride. It can cause hammer toes and muscular issues in your calves and feet, and may lead to plantar fasciitis when you run–a sharp pain in the bottom of your heel with each step. The gait-altering influence may also cause other lower-body issues like knee pain.

A 2008 study at Auburn University found that flip-flops change the way wearers walk, sometimes permanently. Those changes can impact the rest of the body, affecting everything from the wearer’s posture to their gait.

Additionally, the cheap traditional rubber flip-flop is too thin and delicate to protect the soles of the feet. Sharp rocks, sticks, glass and thorns can protrude right through.

There’s good news, though — flip-flops have upgraded over the years, and now it’s possible to get flip-flops with built-in custom orthotics, ensuring that you can indulge in the easy-breezy on-off of flip-flops without suffering foot pain or posture issues. At Life Wellness Center we can fit you for Foot Levelers custom orthotic flip-flops. Offered in a variety of colors and styles, from leather to rhinestone to waterproof, these shoes will keep your feet happy for prolonged walking.

Even with a fine custom pair of flip-flops, there are times we’ll urge you to put on a more solid pair of shoes. When exercising, gardening, mowing and working on house projects, your feet are safer with closed shoes. In 2014 there were 198,437 emergency room visits due to shoe-related injuries:  25,300 were associated with flip-flops, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Emergency Room visits. Because they’re prone to slipping off, they can be a tripping hazard, especially on uneven terrain–not great for your summer Frisbee games! They’re also prone to coming off while driving, so they may slip under the brake pedal or accelerator and cause an accident.

The bottom line: Hang on to a pair of cheap thin flip-flops if you need them for public showers or pools, wear closed-toe shoes when you might be vulnerable to injury, and consider investing in some Foot Levelers custom orthotic flip-flops to ensure that spending summer days in thongs doesn’t make you want to get off your aching feet at the end of the day.


Tom Schmidt

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