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Family Foot & Ankle

Why You Should Forget Flip-Flops on a Full-Time Basis

Summer brings with it plenty of welcome seasonal thoughts: spending time at the pool, barbecuing outdoors, taking in a baseball game, or just lying out beneath the stars.

Going about in open-toed footwear can be another of those annual pleasures, but your choices in that department can have a pretty big impact on your overall foot comfort and health through the summer.

Flip-flops are one of the biggest symbols of summer, synonymous with sunsets and warms sands. Unfortunately, wearing them is not so idyllic for your feet!

We hate to rain on your parade, but flip-flops are not footwear you want to be roaming around in throughout the day. Here are a few reasons why—plus our advice on what you should be looking for in alternative choices.

flip flops

Flip-Flops Are Frail on Foot Protection

We are not ones to frequently quote the wisdom of Jimmy Buffett, but we can’t argue with his experience:

I blew out my flip-flop,

Stepped on a pop top,

Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home.

Sturdier footwear would likely not result in such risks, but flip-flops were made for convenience and not so much actually staying on your foot. One misstep and your flip-flop goes slanted or falls off completely, leaving your foot exposed when it comes down. If you’re lucky, there’s some soft grass or cool sand waiting for you. If you’re unlucky, there’s hot asphalt, rocks, or… a pop top, we suppose.

If you are currently living with diabetes, any sort of cut or injury on the foot can be bad news, so it is especially important to have stability and covering whenever possible.

A flip-flop sliding and slanting can also easily trip you up, leading to a fall or a sprained ankle. It’s also pretty embarrassing.

Flip-Flops Provide Little to No Support

Even when flip-flops stay on your feet, they are providing almost no support to the arch of the foot. You are also receiving next to no cushioning for the heel or general shock absorption across the foot, either.

The feet benefit greatly from these kinds of support, and not having them can place excess strain on regions of the foot. Prolonged stress like this can create painful overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis (pain and inflammation in the band running along the underside of the foot) and Achilles tendinitis (pain and inflammation in the tendon connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone).

If you already have an abnormal foot structure, such as flat feet, lacking support from your footwear increases your injury risk even more.


Your Toes Are Clinging on for the Ride

We already noted that flip-flops do not easily stay on by themselves. In order to compensate, most people have a subconscious reaction to help keep them in place: curling their toes to dig into the material a bit.

It might not feel like much until you have been doing it all day. By then, your toes can be in quite a cramped circumstance.

If your toes are prone to developing into hammertoes (e.g. the deformity runs in your family), then odds are higher than normal that this kind of constant bending can help the condition progress.

What CAN I Use Flip-Flops For?

Flip-flops are not all bad. The key is that they should be used for only very short excursions only.

A good place to use them is around pools or when taking short walks beachside. They can help protect the bottoms of your feet from hot sand or concrete, plus they can help keep you from exposing your feet to fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and fungal toenails. This is especially important when you’re around wet places with a lot of foot traffic, such as public showers and locker rooms.

(Of course, something less likely to slip off like Crocs or shower shoes are even better, but flip flops are certainly preferable to nothing.)

Still, what should you look for if you want to take longer trips and remain relatively open-toed?

taking off flip flops

What to Look for in Sandals

Sandals can provide much more support than a pair of flip-flops—if the sandals themselves aren’t cheaply made, that is.

Arch support is vital. Walk around for a bit in a pair of sandals you plan to buy to ensure it feels comfortable and supportive. You should also check the cushioning of the heel using your thumb. Most sandals are not going to give you a huge amount of heel cushioning, but there should be at least a little give in the area.

Having secure, snug strapping around the heel will also naturally add needed stability. However, make sure that these straps don’t rub against the heel too much, leading to raw spots and blisters. Again, you will want to spend some time walking around in sandals first, giving them a test run, before taking them out for a full day of activity.

Finally, take account of what you wish to use your sandals most for. You might want to have them be as open as possible, which is fine for general walking, but if you want a pair to take camping or on some very light hikes with, you should consider more durable and closed-toe options.

Keep Your Feet Summer-Primed

Flip-flops are not the be-all, end-all of summer. We believe you’ll have a much better time in some open sandals that provide more support.

If you have any current foot or ankle issues that need attention, though, or other questions about summer foot care, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (513) 728-4800.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.
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