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Flip flop sandals: the sad truth

Photo: Jamey Cassell via Flickr

Heading outside to enjoy the summer heat? If so, you’ll probably go for that trusty pair of flip flop-style sandals. You know, the ones with your footprint engraved in them from months of use? We all have them and there’s nothing wrong with slipping them on for a quick trip, but if you’re planning on walking a long distance, you may want to rethink your choice in footwear.

According to the Huffington Post, flip flop sandals may be causing us more problems than we think. Here are a couple of key points to consider:

  • The lack of straps holding the feet can cause muscle and tendon injuries around the toes in an attempt to “grip” the footpad to stay in place.
  • The popular thin footpad design puts unnecessary pressure on the arch and heel, potentially leading to bone cracks and other issues in the ankles, legs and hips.

To discuss these effects, we called upon Ward Glasoe, Ph.D., an expert in kinesiology and anatomy in the University of Minnesota Medical School.

“We have found that since unstable footwear, like flip flops, became fashionable in western society, problems with lower extremity joints and muscles have risen,” said Glasoe.

Muscle and tendon pain seems to be the most commonly cited injury, especially around the toes. According to Glasoe, unstable footwear forces the use of muscles for purposes other than forward motion, which can cause harm.

“This is especially true for flip-flops,” said Glasoe.

With a general lack of arch support and padding for the bottoms of the feet, an increased risk of bone cracks and heel pain is also increased.

“These increased pressures are known to lead to skin breakdown if combined with prolonged walking,” said Glasoe. “Also, they have been associated with disorders of the foot and leg such as joint tissue injury and the stress fracture of bone.”

Overall, when it comes to choosing footwear, Glasoe recommends ditching the flimsy design and kickin’ it old school with well-supported sandals, more straps and better material to avoid blisters.

“The Roman soldiers had it right two thousand years ago. Leather sandals with ankle straps allow for comfort while still providing some structural support for the foot,” said Glasoe. “Why mess with what works?”

Interested in reading more? Here’s some more information about the relationship between flip flops and foot pain from WebMD and CNN Health.

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