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Flip Flops and Your Health

A lot of us love wearing our flip flops year round, especially when it’s a sweltering 90 degrees outside. Let’s be honest, we really don’t want to be putting on boots or tennis shoes in ninety degree weather. We often want to prolong summer wear, and part of that is putting on those flip flops every time we leave the house. It’s not uncommon to go the entire day with our flip flops on, but sorry flop-lovers, you might be ruining your feet! Odds are, you are not wearing two hundred dollar orthopedic sandals everyday. The reality is you’re probably donning some five dollar flip flops from the flea market that serve no support for your tarsals and metatarsals. Wearing flops can cause a lot of issues for not only your feet, but your entire body as well. Your feet are your foundation, and if you’re not on a solid foundation, you may crumble!

Are Flip Flops Bad?

A team of researchers from Auburn University sought to answer this question for themselves and found that when people walk in flip-flops, they alter their gait, which oftentimes results in pain from the foot up into the hips and lower back. People wearing flip-flops took shorter steps than normal and their feet hit the ground with less vertical force than people wearing athletic shoes. The rest of the body must compensate, which can put added stress on the arch, heel, legs, hip and lower back. Wearing flip-flops is better than going barefoot because they do provide some protection for the bottoms of your feet, but that's about it. Flip-flops don't offer any arch or heel support, and you have to grip them with your toes to keep them on. Wearing them for too long or for the wrong activity can cause a lot of different problems. Podiatrists blame flip-flops for blisters, bacteria, viral infections, bad posture, shooting pains, bunion exacerbation (and formation!), hammertoe issues, athlete’s foot, and lack of arch support. Fortunately, chiropractors use a number of diagnostic tests, including examinations of gait and foot function, to measure range of motion and assess foot biomechanics. Giving your body a solid foundation, starting with the feet, helps avert future joint problems.

What does all this mean? Should you dump all twenty-three pairs in the trash this minute? Well, not exactly. (And besides, we know you’re not really going to listen when we tell you to break up with those bad boys.) Like chocolate cake and red wine, flip flops are totally fine in moderation.

Although flip flops are okay in moderation, we do encourage that you follow some of these tips when taking your flip flops for a spin:

  • Invest

  • We don’t like overspending, either. When there's a perfectly "OK" plastic version sitting right there on the shelf, we're gonna reach for it. But the truth is, some things are just worth the investment. Your feet and well-being, for instance. And unless you’re shopping in a totally unreliable store, then we’re pretty sure that the more money you pay for your shoes, the more likely they are to provide arch support. On the whole, flip-flops aren't the most expensive shoe form, and you’re bound to get a ton of use out of them. So pay up!

  • Broken in not Dead

  • Just like you would with running shoes, you should replace your flip flops every few months. A little wear-and-tear is cute. A lot is dangerous.

  • Go for leather, if possible.

  • The American Podiatric Medical Association reminds us that leather makes it less likely for you to get a blister. Bonus points: You’ll get that rustic, well-worn look without having to actually break the shoes in too much. Plastic doesn’t stand a chance.

  • Consider the activity

  • Flip-flops are fine for short-term use, especially if they have at least some arch support and a cushioned sole. They're good to wear at the beach, around swimming pools, in showers and locker rooms at the gym, on short trips to the store. Don't wear them for running, hiking, walking long distances, standing for a long time or playing sports, she advised. Sandals may be a better option, but they're still not as supportive as running shoes if you're going to be active.

Protect your feet and your back this summer by giving your flip flops a break throughout the summer!


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