Its summer and you know what that means: You’re ditching your regular sandals for fashion’s most gender neutral shoes — flip flops.
But do you really know the toll your heels and feet are paying the Pied Piper to wear those rubber soles?
Flip flops, the illegitimate child of the fashion industry, were once regulated to summer.
Now, if you live in warmer states like Florida and Texas you’re likely wearing flip-flops regularly and own a few pairs.
Your favorite celebrity’s flip flop collection may even rival your own while people of all ages are wearing them everywhere—the gym, the community pool and my personal favorite, the grocery store.
While many of us routinely wear those slippery, rubber soled cloud, little did you know they unleash a number of crimes against podiatry on your feet —which doctors say is a major no-no.
High on cheap rubber and criminally low on actual heel support, flip-flops are the angst of podiatrists everywhere.
Summer is right around the corner and doctors say they’re seeing more patients, moreso women, with foot pain caused by long-term wear of flip-flops.
Despite their popularity, flip-flops are not a safe bet for anyone, at any age according to Dr. Ian Goldbaum, a podiatrist based in Delray Beach.
Flip flops are the orthopedic version of a bad break up. Although they last only a season, they leave ongoing damage to your feet, back and ankle.
“They don’t provide support and can lead to a litany of foot problems,” said Dr. Goldbaum.
Dr. Mary White, a podiatrist based in Rockford, Illinois agrees.
“The biggest thing with your foot is your foundation,” said White in an interview with WREX. “So if your ligaments and tendons are not firm and not holding you then the shoe and your sock is your foundation to help your body, your knees your hips to work better. […] So you end up with foot pain, knee pain and back pain but you don’t always attribute that to your feet.”
Get More Support
Dr. Goldbaum suggests women and men replace their flip-flops with sandals that have better support for your feet.
“Cheaper sandals like flip-flops are cheap for a reason,” said Dr. Goldbaum. “When you think you’re saving a little in terms of cost, you’ll pay for it later with severe foot pain that can even lead to back pain.”
Dr. Goldbaum recommends higher quality orthopedic sandals that provide better support and stability.
“I know—nowadays everyone is image conscious but that’s not necessarily beneficial when it comes to your feet’s health,” said Dr. Goldbaum.
Dr. Goldbaum recommends PropetUSA, an orthopedic shoe line made to support your feet that he carries in his podiatry office, Delray Beach Podiatry.
PropetUSA sells 2.5 billion pairs of shoes for men and women in various styles annually in the United States.
“PropetUSA makes an assortment of walking shoes with your feet in mind,” said Dr. Goldbaum. “They’re corrective because they provide the support that your feet are missing and comfort—which is a must.”
He also recommends Dr. Scholl’s for women who want the support minus losing their style.
“Flip flops aren’t worth the purported bargain,” said Dr. Goldbaum. “Those five bucks you saved will essentially translate into thousands of dollars in treatment to correct ankle pain and heel pain which could have easily been prevented.”
Typically, there is a major rise in plantar fasciitis problems during the early months of summer as people move from supportive winter-type shoes to flip-flops, according to the Herald Review.
The Negative Effects of Flip Flops
INFECTION: Flip-flops expose your feet to thousands of bacteria and viruses which can lead to an infection if you have an open cut on your feet.
A study by the University of Miami emergency mobile flip-flop lab found more than 18,000 bacteria on just one pair of flip-flops.
The analysis found various types of germs from bacteria such as fecal matter, respiratory and skin germs.
Even more mind-blowing: One pair of flip-flops belonging to a six-year-old had germs that cause yeast infection and diaper rash.
HEEL PAIN: Your average flip-flop may have a thick sole but it actually provides very little shock absorption and cushion for your heels. The lack of support causes abnormal stretching to the arch which leads to heel pain in the form of plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a common condition resulting from a strained plantar fascia, i.e., the ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes and supports your arch.
Typically, a lack of support can lead to heel spurs and add to soft tissue pain and bone pain. Long-term arch and heel pain can lead to bone spurs and extreme ankle pain.
ANKLE PAIN: Flip flops are notorious for causing ankle pain and injury.
Stress fractures in the bones of the feet can result from the lack of shock absorption and proper cushion for the feet. This can lead to common problems such as ankle fractures and swollen ankles. Flip flops can also cause high ankle sprain, also known as a syndesmotic sprain, located above the ankle when the lower leg and foot externally twists out. High ankle sprains account for 15 percent of all ankle sprains, according to Wikipedia.
TOE NAIL FUNGUS: Surprise, surprise. Who knew your flip-flops were behind your embarrassing toe nail fungus? Exposed toes are susceptible to trauma and fungal infections which can lead to thick toenails, yellow toenails and toenail fungus.
Because flip-flops offer little support and leave your toes open to the elements, your toes are likely to develop black toenail, a condition that develops after trauma to the toe.
FOOT PAD PROBLEMS: The rubber strap that extends from the toe post to the sides of flip-flops does not properly hold your feet in place. Consequently, walking with flip-flops causes blisters and an eventual burning sensation in the foot pad known as metatarsalgia. Flip flops add more stress to your muscles, leading to foot cramps, sore feet, neuropathy and tingling feet.
ALTERED GAIT PROBLEMS: Have you ever noticed how your walk changes when wearing flip-flops? You’re not the only one. Flip flops causes everyone to walk differently, in act referred to as altered gait. An altered gait leaves you more susceptible to looking like a klutz as you’re chances of falling are exponentially increased.
Because your feet lack cushion when wearing flip-flops, you consciously shorten your strides. Also, you tend to alter the distribution of your body weight from heel to toe to accommodate your lack of support.
When your feet doesn’t get its necessary support, your joints compensate by adding stress to your muscles, tendons and ligaments. In turn, you get pain your Achilles tendon, knees, hips and lower back.
And it gets worse: Flip-flops alter your bio-mechanics and posture, too according to Herald Review.
Think about your feet’s health the next time you’re at your local drugstore to buy a pair of flip-flops.