According to the 2012 National Foot Health Assessment, a full 78% of adults report having experienced foot pain at some time in their lives. How much of that is due to flip flops depends how often you wear them – and what kind you wear. “While many podiatrists don’t completely disapprove of flip flops – the American Podiatric Medical Association has a long list of recommended styles” – there are a few things you should know before slipping them on.
The structure of the flip flop itself does not give extensive support. “Flip flops do not have straps that support around the ankle. Sprains and twists can occur more easily when wearing these shoes.” The toes are also affected. “One study found people tend to scrunch their toes as the heel is lifted in the air while walking. This type of movement at the wrong time in the gait cycle can lead to head, neck, and hip problems. The thin, flexible soles also do not provide enough cushioning for the heel and the lack of arch support causes the foot to collapse and lie unnaturally flat on the shoe.
When walking, flip flop wearers “take short strides and turn their ankles inward. Long-term ankle and hip problems are a cause for concern.” Heel pain is a growing concern among young people ages 15-25. This group does not normally have foot problems. “Experts cite wearing flip-flops daily as the main cause.”
Some tips for choosing your next pair of flip flops:
- Choose flip flops with “sturdier soles for better cushioning. Shoes of any kind should never fold in half or sideways.” They need a built-in arch support and high quality straps help prevent blisters.
- Limit wearing flip flops for short periods of time. Examples include walking on the beach, hanging by the pool, and taking out the trash.
- Never wear flip flops while playing sports.
- Try to replace thin-soled flip flops every 3-4 months.