Flip-flops, thongs, jandals, whatever you want to call them, the verdict is still the same: they’re unfortunately not doing a single thing to support and stabilise your feet.
Let us first start off by saying that we have nothing against flip-flops, per se. There is a time and a place for everything, right? When you’re at the beach and you’re walking back to your towel and don’t want to burn your feet on the sand, flip-flops are fantastic. When you go outside to pick a lemon from your lemon tree and you don’t want to cut your feet on anything sharp on the grass, flip-flops are fantastic. They have a very useful purpose in protecting your feet from anything risk on the ground and they do a great job of it. But when it comes to walking longer than a couple of minutes where you’re starting to really use all your bones, joints and muscles to keep you efficiently walking without pain, discomfort or getting tired? Flip-flops are not your friend. So, why are flip-flops so bad? Let us start with 5 reasons.
Number one. We’d like you to imagine your shoe in a sneaker or in any other closed-in shoe that supports and cups your heel and ankle. Every step you take, that shoe will be supporting your ankle and your foot, helping to keep it in that good position. Now imagine your foot in a flip-flop, taking that same step. See how your ankle is free to move around however it likes? Now think about all the intrinsic muscles that will be having to work much harder to give it back some stability on the completely flat surface the flip-flop creates (which on uneven ground is at various angles).
Number two: The toes. When you’re walking in flip-flops, and whether you realise it or not, your toe will be working much harder to grip onto the jandal. They do this to stabilise the foot against the ground, and also to keep your shoe on, seeing as there are no other supporting straps around. Again, this leaves your feet significantly more tired than other shoes that had a secure fastening mechanism and leaves you vulnerable to forefoot pain.
Number three: Arch support, where art thou? Seriously though, standard flip-flops offer absolutely zero arch support. If you have flat feet, this means your foot is flattening as far as it can go with every step. While it does that, there are so many muscles working to lower it down, and then engaging to lift the arch all the way back up and get you taking that next step. This happens at every step. For hours each day. For months of summer. The chances of that adding up and causing some serious damage? High for a lot of people.
Number four. Continuing on from the way your muscles are overused, and combine that with a lack of cushioning and support at the heel, and you get plantar fasciosis. Yep, we could dedicate an entire clinic to patients that develop plantar fasciosis (or their previous plantar fascial pain recurs) as a result of unsupportive footwear exactly like flip-flops. Because the plantar fascia runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel, it’s the combination of constantly being strained and unsupported, with the constant pounding on the heel that is a major causative factor for a lot of people. Because plantar fasciosis is a serious and painful foot problem for so many Australians, this is an important one to point out.
Number five: Oh, the rubbing. If you’ve ever experienced the painful rubbing or blistering of a flip-flop strap between your first two toes (particularly if your feet are wet or sandy), then you’ll definitely have told yourself that you’ll never subdue yourself to that ever again. Yet it manages to happen almost every summer. More than just rubbing or blistering, any breaks in the skin leaves you vulnerable to infection, and when you’re continuously exposing your feet to dirt by wearing flip-flops and not covered shoes, that risk of infection skyrockets.
That’s our first five, but wait, there’s more. These other reasons stem from the fact that our feet are the foundations of our body. And if the shoe that guides and supports our foundations is unstable, then the foundations crumble. It impacts our ankles, knees, hips, back and even neck. The shorter strides we take to keep flip-flops from flying off changes the way we use the muscles of our back, hips, legs and feet – and can cause additional tension and strain.
So, What’s The Alternative?
If you are going to be spending days in your flip-flops, there are more comfortable alternatives. Orthoheels, Archies and Vionics offer contoured and more supportive flip-flops to help get you through your day more comfortably. Many of these have been developed in association with a Podiatrist, so make sure you do your research if you intend to purchase one that it does have the right supportive technology. Remember, even though they’re better for your feet that a standard flip-flop, they’re not going to be as good as a regular, supportive shoe.
If Pain Develops
The important takeaway here is that there is a time and place for flip-flops, and it’s not all day every day. If you do start to develop pain or problems, don’t wait until it worsens to get help. What’s worse than seeing flip-flops on a tramper is seeing our patients in pain and unable to do the things they love this summer. Come in and see our expert team and we’ll have you back on your feet – give us a call on 1300-FX-FEET.
And just for your entertainment, here’s how a couple of Kiwi’s trekked through the Himalayas in their flip-flops: