Why Foot Doctors Hate Flip Flops
There's no better symbol of the lazy days of summer than the easy, breezy flip-flop sandal. But these warm-weather icons are a foot doctor's worst enemy.
"There's probably nothing that I have to tell people more than that they shouldn't be wearing flip-flops," says Frank Narcisi, DPM, podiatrist with Specialty Physicians of Illinois in Chicago Heights.
What's the Problem with Flip-Flops?
Wearing flip-flops can compromise your foot health. If you frequently don these thin sandals, you might already know that the lack of arch support leads to foot pain. Says Narcisi, "Flip-flops are leading causes of plantar fasciitis and tendinitis, both of which are inflammatory conditions that cause sharp foot pain."
Surprisingly though, knee and back pain also can be attributed to wearing a flat sandal. Without arch support, sandals throw your body into an awkward stance. The result is poor posture that can cause aches and pains in places other than your feet.
Additionally, flip-flops offer zero protection from the elements. You're more likely to get injured from sidewalk debris like pieces of glass, rocks and sticks when you're wearing the famed footwear. And, because flip-flops often slip halfway off, you're also more apt to trip and fall.
Even worse, flip-flops can contribute to hammertoe, a condition that permanently disfigures your foot by causing toes to bend sideways at the knuckles. Wearing flip-flops requires your toes to grip the loose sandals to keep them from slipping off, says Narcisi.
"Toe grip is meant to be used to push you off the ground and propel the body forward, not to keep shoes from slipping off while the foot is in the air. It's an unnatural motion," he explains.
What Should I Look For in Summer Sandals?
Flat flip-flops are perfectly fine to use around the pool or as a shower shoe in public facilities. But for regular wear, go with athletic-type sandals that have multiple straps to hold them in place across the foot and ankle. Arch support and good cushioning in the sole are essential, too.
“For optimal foot health, a sandal should look like an athletic shoe, but be open on top like a sandal,” says Narcisi.
Is There a Better Flip-Flop?
We know that for some diehard flip-flop fans, ditching these summer sandals is probably not going to happen. In that case, consider investing in a flip-flop that goes beyond basic, inexpensive types.
Trade in plastic, bendy flip-flops for sandals that have:
- Arch support and cushioning in the sole, which many comfort brands have.
- Soft leather straps because they are less likely to give you blisters.
- Flip flops that bend at the ball of the foot, but don’t bend in half (for sturdier support).
What If My Feet Already Hurt?
If you are experiencing foot pain and problems, you may need to see a doctor that specializes in podiatric medicine, or foot health. Use our physician directory to find a doctor near you.