From the city’s sweltering sidewalks to sandy beaches, there's no sandal that signals summer quite like the flip-flop. But are these no-fuss flats as harmless as they seem? Studies show that despite their easy-breezy appeal, wearing flip-flops as an everyday shoe can cause a range of physical ailments, ranging from plantar fasciitis and muscle soreness, to lower back pain. Not exactly what we signed up for, right?
It’s About Foot Action
With the average American taking 5,117 steps a day — and experts recommending we take close to 5,000 more — our footwear is hardly an inconsequential choice. A recent survey found that 78 percent of American adults over the age of 21 report having had some sort of foot pain or issue at some point in their lives, and more than half reported having such issues at the time of the survey. And while are many ill-fitting shoes that contribute to these problems, flip flops may be the riskiest pick of them all.
In one study at Auburn University, researchers compared the effects of wearing flip-flops and athletic shoes on 39 male and female college students. The flip-flop wearers took shorter steps and struck their heel to the ground with less vertical force than when in sneakers, causing their gaits to sway away from their natural rhythm. The reason? Most flip-flop wearers tend to clench their toes around the thong portion of the sandal to keep them from flying off. But toe curls aren’t quite what the doctor ordered and can instead lead to repetitive stress on the ankle and foot, and eventually far more serious issues such as hammertoes.
Where Flip Flops Fall Flat
Even though flip-flops provide some cushioning benefit over bare feet alone, these studies show they’re responsible for throwing human gait kinetics out of balance. The body is forced to compensate, and what starts as stress on the arch, heel, and the rest of the foot can eventually manifest as soreness in the legs, hips, and lower back.
Among the most treated flip-flop induced injuries is plantar faciitis, an inflammation of the connective tissue along the bottom of the foot that affects close to two million Americans each year. This acute heel pain is most often sparked by all-day wear, with overweight or sedentary wearers even more susceptible since their arches are already under strain. Roughly 20 percent of sufferers develop a chronic condition, making plantar faciitis even worse.
You Can Do Better
Ease of wear is the most cited reason for subjecting your feet to flip-flops, but we’ve got plenty of options that are just as easy to wear, while offering support and protection for your feet. Slip into these choices, and your feet and body will thank you!
Dr. Comfort Drew Sandal for Men
Dr. Comfort Liz Sandal for Women
Ros Hommerson Mable Sandal for Women
Drew Shoes Milan Sandal for Women
Drew Shoes Warren Sandal for Men