It's summer, so it's no surprise that my patients are flocking to buy a new flip flops. In the last few years, flip flops have become a fashion statement. Teens and adults alike can be seen wearing them at the beach, the mall, and while strolling around Green Lake.
And therein lies the problem.
Ideal for pool and beach, flip flops were never intended to be worn everywhere and anywhere all day long.
As a Seattle podiatrist, I see many different foot and ankle problems resulting from improper flip flop wear. Not only do patients wear them for extended periods of time but during activities like walking long distances, dancing, or even running.
Foot and Ankle Problems Caused By Wearing Flip Flops
Thong-style flip flops can be so risky for feet and ankles due to their lack of arch support, heel support, and cushioning (most flip flops are so thin you may as well walk barefoot). Also, because of their design the wearer needs to grip them with curled your toes to keep them on.
When you wear these traditional flip flops outside of their intended purpose, you can make existing foot problems worse and cause new ones to develop.
Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis
Flip flops have absolutely no arch support. If you have flat feet, you're already prone to heel pain and plantar fasciitis. Wearing flip flops will only make it more likely for you to develop this painful condition.
Bunions and Hammertoes
As mentioned above, due to their design flip flops require gripping with the toes to keep them on. That repeated gripping can cause painful tendinitis and lead to more rapid development of bunions and hammertoes. If you’re at risk for either of these conditions, flip flops can accelerate their development.
Morton’s neuroma is a benign growth of nerves between the third and fourth toes that become irritated when footwear rubs against it. The gripping needed to keep on flip flops can also speed up development of this painful foot condition.
Traditional flip flops have absolutely no cushioning or support. Walking, dancing, or exercising in flip flops can cause stress fractures or hairline cracks in the bones of your feet.
Flip flops allow your foot to move around more than any other shoe, often resulting in painful blisters.
Sprained Ankles and Falls
Because flip flops have no support, any rapid movement when wearing them will increase the likelihood of trips, falls, and ankle sprains.
Cuts and Abrasions
Traditional flip flops are so thin and open to the air the chance of cuts, abrasions, and punctures are much greater than a more cushioned and enclosed sandal or shoe.
Flip Flops Intended for the Beach and Pool Only
Traditional flip flops are fine for the beach or pool. These are the real floppy sandals that give flip flops their name. If your flip flop easily bends in half and twists you'll know you have this type of sandal. If you plan to go for a walk of any distance or another activity you'll need to choose a more supportive flip flop or sandal to prevent injury or other foot problems.
6 Tips for Wearing Flip Flops Without Killing Your Feet
1. Buy a flip flop with more support
Many shoe brands have designed flip flops for more active wear. For example, Vionic makes a Unisex Wave Toe Post Sandal that only bends at the ball of the foot, has arch support, and a slight elevation in the heel. These are great for a stroll along the Edmonds waterfront or for short walks around your neighborhood.
2. Buy a flip flop designed to go the distance
Plan to walk longer distances or go for a short hike? Flip flop-like sandals will be the best choice so you don't twist an ankle. Good examples are sandals made by Naot, Chaco, and Teva. All of these sandals have strapping across the toes and the ankles, good arch support, and allow your toes the freedom to move.
3. Buy flip flops with a leather footbed
When it comes to flip flops leather is best. It will minimize blisters and other problems with irritation.
4. Avoid toe overhang
Make sure you buy flip flops that fit. If you toes overhang you'll be much more likely to stub them.
5. Don't ignore pain or irritiation between your big toe and second toe
Excessive rubbing can cause blisters and lead to infections.
6. Bring an extra pair of sandals or tennis shoes with you
When you go out, bring an extra pair of sandals with you so you can switch out of your flip flops when activities ramp up.
Suffering from foot pain as a result of wearing flip flops, give us a call at 206-368-7000 or request an appointment online. Most often we can appoint you in less than a week.