Flip flops might get an A for comfort and coolness, but they also get an F for foot health according to doctors. Maybe it’s time to reassess your summer wardrobe!
Speaking to CBS News, Dr. Mallika Marshall shared her best advice for avid fans of the comfy, thin-soled footwear. Just because everybody’s wearing them doesn’t mean they’re good for your feet, Marshall warns; what’s easy now might damage your tootsies in the long term.
According to Marshall, Auburn University in Alabama has been looking into the effect of thin soles on arch support, or rather the lack thereof; flip flops offer virtually no heel cushioning and no shock absorption.
Doctor warns about the dangers of flip-flops.
Thanks to Channel 7 for asking me to help with the story!
— Zachary Vaupel (@VaupelMD) August 2, 2016
For some, the rubbing of the thong between the toes can also cause nasty sores, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Our need to grip on the thong in the center of the shoe with our toes forces us to walk differently, altering the gait and straining muscles we shouldn’t be straining.
Researchers call it the “thong effect.”
According to North Central Surgical, a study of 39 college-aged men and women discovered that habitual flip flop wearers “took shorter steps” and their heels “hit the ground with less vertical force than people who wore athletic shoes.” Over time, this altered gait could induce lower leg pain and heel problems, such as heel spurs and plantar strain (that’s inflammation of the tissue covering the soles of the feet).
Wearing flip flops, we are more vulnerable to the impact of falling objects and clumsy pedestrians. Doctors are growing accustomed to nail injuries and broken and bruised toes in the summer months; none of these injuries would happen with closed-toe shoes.
Some doctors are even warning of an additional, even more serious danger linked to the casual habit of wearing flip flops: skin cancer. Your usually protected, delicate foot skin is exposed to the sun in flip flops, and let’s be honest; how many of us remember to put sunscreen on our feet?
Skin cancer on the feet can go unnoticed, too, as spots that occur in nooks, crannies, and between the toes are easier to miss.
Dr. Zachary Vaupel, foot and ankle surgeon with Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, spoke to WXYZ, and he agreed; continuous flip flop wearing can definitely wear out your feet. “Tendonitis, stress fractures, and shin splits” are common, he said, and some problems caused by flips flops, like “trips and falls, strains and sprains, [and] broken bones” could easily reverberate around the rest of your body.
“With children,” Vaupel added, “because they are more active, they typically tend to run around and do things they probably shouldn’t do in a flip flop.”
Flip flops that are too small for our feet can cause pressure points that lead to sore skin and blisters. Flip flops that are too big, on the other hand, could cause the wearer to slip and fall. “Cushioned shoes that [are] supportive, with closed toes that can protect from injuries and support the foot can reduce foot pain,” the doctor advised.
Sure, closed-toed shoes are the safest, but how serious are we really talking? Which are worse, flip flops or high heels? “I would say probably flip flops,” Vaupel concluded.
Dr. Marshall’s final thoughts are worthy of serious consideration this summer. Anyone with existing foot injuries shouldn’t wear flip flops, she said. People with diabetes, who have a heightened risk of infection and injury, should avoid them, as should anybody who is significantly overweight.
The positive take home is this: if you cannot bear to part from your summer wardrobe staple, then at least exercise caution. Don’t walk long distances in your flip flops, and choose a pair with thick, cushioned soles. Enjoy your easy, breezy summer footwear by all means, but just remember:
Healthy feet trump convenience in the long run!