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Flip Flops or ‘Flip Nots’

discomfort in the heel

By: Cierra Washington, ATC

It’s 90 degrees outside, the suns is beaming and you’re ready to head out and enjoy the day. As you’re heading out the door though, you’re faced with a dilemma: sneakers or flip flops? Of course, you want to choose your flip flops. They keep your feet cool, you can put them on and take them off quickly and let’s be honest, they’re just plain comfortable! However, along with that comfort comes some structural sacrifices. Maybe after this article you’ll reconsider those sneakers as your first choice.

First off, the openness of the flip flop’s design does not provide a shield against environmental dangers, such broken glass or other debris that could be on the ground when you’re walking around. Think about a beachside boardwalk. The thin soles on flip flops also mean you run the risk of repeated stress on any of the bones in your foot all the way up to your knee joint. This is because flip flops don’t provide much shock absorption which can lead to minor fractures.

Flips flops are flat and therefore do not provide much support to the foot and ankle joint. This can potentially lead to injuries and muscle weakness. In addition, that strap on the flip flop that runs across your toes does little to prevent your foot from moving around.  That means when you wear them, even if you don’t consciously notice it, you have to curl your toes to keep the shoe on which alters your gait pattern. This can lead to various injuries ranging from your toes to your hip:

  • Blisters on the foot pad (from the foot sliding around)
  • Tendonitis of the foot tendons (constant gripping of the shoe)
  • Hammer toes (from curling your toes, to hold on to the shoe)
  • Fallen arches (lack of arch support)
  • Plantar fasciitis (lack of support and stress on tendon)
  • Heel pain or possible fracture (stress from repetitive heel striking)
  • Ankle instability (lack of support around the ankle)
  • Shin Splints (side effect of fallen arches)
  • Medial Knee Pain (side effect of fallen arches

We know it’s tough to totally pass on those flips flops in the summer especially if you’re heading to the pool or the beach. So, here are a few tips to help you pick out a pair that’s better for your feet:

  • Fit: make sure your toes and heels are completely inside the flip flop, not hanging over
  • Flexibility: the shoe should NOT bend in half and if so, it does not have enough support
  • Arch: find one with a thicker sole and an arch bump in the middle shaped to your foot
  • Change them once they start to show signs of wear
  • Straps: the wider the straps over the toes, the more stable your foot is

All in all, it would be best to opt for a more supportive shoe such as a tennis shoe for the muscular support in the feet/ankle as well as the protection against environmental dangers. However, if you do chose to wear flip flops, make sure you are choosing a pair that fits appropriately, provides support and stability as well as comfort.

If you have any questions or concerns or would like to schedule an evaluation to learn more about an injury or a pain you are feeling, call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, at 703-450-4300.

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