Flip Flops and Foot Pain
By: Dr. Peggy Malone
This is the time of year when everyone’s feet are happily breathing a sigh of relief as they come out of their socks and into the cool shoes of summer.
It’s also the time of year when I see a spike in foot complaints in my office.
Lovely, fun, convenient, comfy, cheap, unsupportive, dangerous Flip Flops are causing shoe-related foot injuries.
What? Dangerous? That seems a pretty strong word for such a seemingly harmless piece of rubber, doesn’t it?
We’ve talked in previous posts about the importance of choosing the right shoe to keep your feet and the anatomy train above them supported for athletics and for everyday life.
We should take the same principles and apply them to the shoes we put on our feet in the summer time to avoid injuries.
You may be asking: What kind of injuries could a flip flop cause?
Well, to begin with, there is really nothing wrong with flip flops if you wear them to the beach or in the locker room shower as an alternative to going barefoot.
The problems begin when people wear them day in and day out all summer long.
Thin rubber flip flops have no arch support whatsoever and walking in flip flops forces you to change the biomechanical pattern of the way you walk. You begin to use muscles and joints in a different way and if you do so repetitively, you are setting yourself up for joint and muscle strains.
Think about how your toes have to squeeze every step to keep the flip flop in place. You can try it right now if you have a pair of flip flops to experiment with. If you compare that to what your foot does while in a regular shoe like a running shoe, you can see the difference in how your muscles and joints are working.
Many people continue to wear flip flops even after they feel pain which can then cause the body to compensate and left untreated can lead to knee, hip and back pain.
On top of the joint, muscle and other soft tissue strains that occur because of this aberrant repetitive motion, many are susceptible to injuries from trips and falls while trying to move quickly in these awkward floppy pieces of rubber.
Ankle sprains, stubbed or broken toes and falls are common when people try to run in flip flops.
Upwards of 200 000 people visit their health care provider or end up in hospital every year after falling or developing repetitive strain injuries associated with flip flops!!
So…Dangerous, it seems, is quite a fitting word for Flip Flops.
Here are some things that you can do to keep your feet safe and healthy this summer:
-If you insist on wearing flips flops, choose those made with firmer materials that have stiff soles and bend only a little. (take the ‘flop’ out of flip flop)
-Wear your flip flops in moderation. To the beach is fine or if you are going somewhere and you know you won’t be doing much walking.
-Even better, switch your flip flops for a sport sandal that has more support for your arch and that has a strap around the heel to take pressure off of your forefoot. (if there is a strap around the heel, your toes won’t have to scrunch as much to keep the shoe on)
-To avoid injuries such as sprained ankles or falls, avoid running or jumping while wearing your flip flops.
-If you notice the edges of pain after some time flipping and flopping, get some ice on the painful area and consider switching to a more supportive shoe for a few days.
-If you are gardening or cutting the lawn, please don’t wear your flip flops…garden tools and lawnmowers do not mix well with bare toes.
I hope that you have a bit of a different outlook on your seemingly innocent rubber summer footwear.
Make sure that you choose your summer shoes wisely as you get outside and enjoy the nice weather 🙂
Dr. Peggy Malone is a Chiropractor and an Athlete who helps other athletes to overcome injury and get back to their sport. She also inspires patients from all walks of life to take control of their health to be as happy and as healthy as they can be.
A former varsity Basketball and Rugby player, she has since entered the world of endurance athletics where she has completed 2 Ironman Triathlons, 3 Marathons, several Half Marathons and many other Triathlons, Road Races and Off-Road Adventure races of varying distances.
Her own athletic endeavors and injuries have given her valuable insight into working with athletes in her practice for both the care of injuries as well as for the improvement of athletic performance.