Ode To Flip Flops
By Dr. Rion Berg
June 03, 2011
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The calendar says it is Spring, and as long as this crazy weather is warm enough to prevent frostbite, it is time to bust out the flip flops, right? They are so easy to slip on quick and head out to Golden Gardens, while allowing those beautifully painted nails, (or those hot, sticky, feet) out to enjoy some fresh air.

Plus, there’s the chance your kids just picked out a colorful array of $2 thong-style flip flops just in time for summer vacation. So now you find yourself outside walking the trails or exploring the local shopping scene, really feeling “summery” in shorts and flip flops after a long winter of having your feet sequestered in socks and shoes.

But then after a day or two, things start plummeting as summer spirits have turned into achy ankles and pedal pain.

A source of a good amount of foot pain can be based on your specific foot type and subsequently on lack of support for that foot type. It is a safe bet that if we were to make a “Top 5 Reasons My Feet Hurt After A Long Day” list, the frequent use of flat, flip flops/sandals or shoes without proper support would be near the top.

While studies have begun to show how bad certain shoe types such as thong-style flip flops can be for the feet, other reports show that men’s thong-style flip-flop sandal sales in department stores had a fourfold increase from 2002 to 2006, contributing to the $50 million increase in overall sandal sales from 2004 to 2007.

It can be casually observed that wearing flip-flops changes the way a person walks, while one study shows an increase in plantar pressures (increased pressure coming from the ground up through the bottom of the foot with each step) when wearing flip-flops compared with athletic sneakers.

Any flip-flop or sandal without adequate heel support (both under and around the heel) and without adequate arch support will only exacerbate any previously existing abnormalities in foot structure or function, leading, of course, to more heel and foot pain. In addition to general achiness, use of unsupported flip-flops has been found to increase the chance of plantar fasciitis.

The paramount reason thong-style flip-flops can be so risky for the feet, (besides lack of arch support, lack of heel support, and often being so thin you may as well walk barefoot) is that with each step, as your foot swings forward, you grip the flip-flop by curling your toes, and this tiny subconscious habit changes the way you walk and the way your foot functions while walking, once again leading to all this pain.

But wait! There is hope! The number one answer is simple: get a good sneaker with adequate support and throw away those flat, thin, thong-style flip flops. They never supported you anyway! But if you’re like me, sandals are just too hard to resist if the temperature is above 60 degrees. If you must wear sandals, there are styles available with built-in medial arch support, straps that go around the ankle to provide some heel support, and straps around the foot to prevent that toe death grip with each step.

A few highly recommended sandal brands are Chaco, Teva , and Spenco, that have the rugged footwear look we are known for here in Seattle. For a touch dressier look, consider Naot, Keen, or Dansko sandals.  It is recommended to limit the amount of time and activity in any type of shoe gear without propper support, as well as to switch to supportive shoe gear and to see your podiatrist at the first sign of flip-flop associated foot pain.

If you're experiencing pain in your feet make an appointment today by calling us at 206-368-7000 or request one online.