As a Sports Chiropractor in San Diego in the summertime, I find myself repeatedly doling out the same unheeded disclaimer to my clients, friends, and family. It’s not a fun message, it’s not a welcomed form of advice, and it kinda sucks to have to break the news. It’s like being a professional “Santa Clause isn’t real” messenger. Who wants to be that guy?
So here it is. Flip Flop style sandals are terrible for your feet (Yes even ones with arch support), ankles, knees, hips and back.
I said it, go ahead and roll your eyes. Wearing flip flops for foot protection and support is like Brushing your teeth with cake icing and maple syrup (classic Dr. Todd analogy). I see more and more feet, ankle, knee, and hip pain mysteriously kick in during the warmer months. There is silent attack on foot and lower leg biomechanics, so lets discuss it and discuss the science.
It goes without saying that flip flops have their own charm. Something about the open and free nature of this particular design of footwear makes it one of the most popular in the world. They usually flood the streets during the summer or on any other casual sunny day but it is not entirely unheard of to find someone who wears then day in day out. For the longest time now, there has been a debate on the safety of flip flops. Those in support of the casual trend argue that they are open and comfortable allowing much needed aeration and sun exposure. Those against them point out major cons of the design including exposure to penetrating parasites as well as musculoskeletal injuries due to inadequate support among many other reasons. So, are flip flops a good idea?
Flip flop dangers
Flip flops may be comfortable and all that but they are actually not very good for you. This is the case when you regularly walk for long distances in them. Below are a few joint and soft tissue injuries you put yourself at risk of wearing flip flops.
1. Blisters and bruises
The constant contact and friction between the straps and your skin will eventually lead to bruising and formation of blisters. This usually occurs when you wear ill-fitted flip flops and could have further effects on your walking style and posture. The overall effect is pain and staining on only on the affected area but also on other parts of the foot and the leg when the blisters lead to change in gait.
2. They increase the risk of developing heel spurs
Heel spurs are calcium deposits on the heel bone as a result of consistent stress. This is usually associated with long periods of walking or standing on shoes without proper support such as Flip flops.
3. Increases risk of plantar strain leading to fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is as painful as it sounds. It usually presents as sharp pains on the middle region of the sole of your foot as your foot pushes of the ground. This is an effect of lack of proper support while walking which flip flops are notorious for. A study in Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association additionally claims that compared with athletic shoes, they increase peak plantar pressures, placing the foot at greater risk for pathologic abnormalities
4. Unnecessary strain on toes and the tarsal-metatarsal joint
Flop flops lack support at the back and people usually have to compensate by gripping the front of the shoe with their toes. This will eventually lead to toe pains and when worn consistently could damage the existing joints making mobility an absolute nightmare. According to a study in Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, (1) flip-flop footwear conditions altered gait parameters when compared to barefoot. Maximum ankle dorsiflexion in swing was greater in the flip-flop. Significantly higher tibialis anterior activation and a faster heel velocity toward the floor was evident in the flip-flop. (2).
5. Tendonitis at the Achilles tendon
This is also as a result of the lack of support from flip flops that forces the wearer to compensate using other muscles and tendons. Calf muscles are among those involved in the process and strain is usually experienced at their point of intersection through the Achilles tendon. When worn and walked on for a long period of time and on a regular basis, they could lead to inflation of this tendon.
6. Foot muscle straining especially in the flat-footed
Flat footed people have foot arches that are considerably lower than those of normal footed people. This means that they need properly supporting shoes more than anyone else. Wearing flip flops leaves them inadequately supported leading to muscle strains and foot pain.
7. Increased risk of tripping
Finally, flip flops significantly increase your chances of filling and getting injured. Something that you are likely to have experienced in flip flops is stumbling when someone steps on the back of your flip flop. It actually happens a lot and is pretty much an occupational hazard for flip flop diehards.
After all is said and done, there is no denying that flip flop dangers are real. If you can, do your best to avoid wearing them for too long or even at all. If you are unwilling to compromise on the comfort of open shoes, you could always go for safer alternatives including peep toe shoes and back strapped sandals. But the bottom line is that you flip flops are actually not a good idea. Wear the on occasion, for short bits of time. It’s not an all day shoe, it’s convenient wear.
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