Last updated on March 30, 2017
Freeing the feet by throwing on a pair of flip flops may feel good, but is it? Experts warn that wearing flimsy sandals too often can be cause for concern.
As a matter of fact, doctors say that in some situations, wearing weak sandals can be more hazardous than going barefoot. Podiatrists even warn that wearing flip flops as your everyday means of footwear can be more harmful to the knees and lower back than men wearing hard loafers or women wearing high heels.
What harm can come from wearing flimsy flip flops, you wonder? Podiatrists are lined up and ready to explain:
Podiatrist and instructor in orthopedics at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Dr. Christine Sigur explains the main problem with general flip flops is their lack of protection and support. When you wear a pair of flip flops, the way your step hits the ground changes.
This change in step also changes the way your knees respond to your walking pattern, which ultimately places additional stress on all areas of the knees including the tendons, muscles and ligaments. People who already have knee problems can quite easily end up with enhanced knee injuries such as meniscus, but this problem can also arise in people without underlying knee problems.
Flimsy footwear can wreak havoc on your lower back as well as your feet. Since flip flops alter the way your natural walking strike hits the ground, they also alter the way your knees, hips and back move. The impact of this distorted muscle movement is normally absorbed by the lower back and over time, can lead to herniated disks. American Podiatric Medical Association, Chicago-based podiatrist Dr. Marlene Reid says, “if a problem develops and it goes neglected for a long time, it can result in a surgery.”
People can suffer hammertoes from poorly structured flip flops just as easily as a regular pair of poorly shaped shoes. Dr. Ali Sadrieh, a doctor of podiatry at Evo Advanced Foot Surgery in Los Angeles, notes that one of the biggest problems with flip flops in their structure. She explains that when you walk in flip flops, the tendons in the feet either contract too much or not enough, which can result in bunions or the development of hammertoes.
When your feet become over-stressed from lack of foot support, the soft tissue on the bottom becomes inflamed, resulting in plantar fasciitis. This is the most common foot issue with flimsy flip flops. Prolonged wear of unsupported footwear leads to the feet becoming irritated and tight because your arches are suddenly bearing your full body weight.
How to buy good flip flops?
Look for sturdiness and avoid flimsy shoes that you can easily bend in the middle. Instead, opt for flip flops that bend at the ball of the foot.
Buy leather sandals as leather footwear are less likely to become irritating and cause blisters.
Look for the American Podiatric Medical Association’s seal of approval.
Make sure the flip flops fit. If your feet hang off any of the edges, they don’t fit.
If you have flip flops that cause irritation, for example between toes, don’t ignore the irritation as it can lead to an infection. Ditch those flip flops.
If your flip flops are showing signs of wear and tear it’s time to toss them and use these tips to purchase a new pair.