Health hazards of wearing flip flops

Health hazards of wearing flip flops

Remember the Margaritaville song lyrics – “I blew out my flip flop, stepped on a pop top, cut my heel, had to cruise on back home?”  Let’s hope that’s never happened to you.  But if you wear flip flops, it could.

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We love our flip flops – they’re cheap, easy to put on and are almost like going barefoot. But these popular summer comfort shoes also are notoriously bad for your feet.  Even though they are better than going barefoot, they also are unstructured enough to provide little protection or support for your feet and that means only one thing – increased foot problems.

If we used flip flops like they are intended to be used for short-term use such as wearing them at the beach, around swimming pools, in showers and locker rooms at the gym or short trips to the store, they are fine. However, many of us are wearing them everywhere and all year long for extended lengths of time creating issues with our feet. 

The harm of wearing flip flops

Here are some ways in which flip-flops can fail to protect the health of your feet:

·      They provide no arch or heel support, cushioning, or shock absorption.  They also cause you to have to grip them with your toes to keep them on.

·      They leave feet exposed making you susceptible to stubbed toes, glass cuts, puncture wounds, bruises, torn nails, and insect bites.

·      Wear them too often and they can lead to minor problems such as chafing, blisters, calluses, or soreness.

·      They also can lead to more serious issues such as plantar fasciitis, hammer toes, and stress fractures.

·      Anyone who has diabetes should not wear flip flops as they need the protective function of a shoe that covers their toes.    Any injury to their feet can become serious even leading to amputation.

·      Never run or play sports in flip-flops – always wear proper sports shoes.  Trying to play Frisbee or a backyard football or soccer game can result in suffering from a sprained ankle, fractures, and severe ligament injuries that could require surgery.

·      This advice also includes never wearing flip flops on a hiking trail – they are meant for walking on flat surfaces and not rough terrain.  Flip flops do not allow you to achieve a powerful walking stride of striking with the heel and pushing off with the toe.  What you end up with is a shorter stride, clomping along flat-footed. 

·      Wearing flip flops while driving is highly discouraged.  They can come off the foot becoming lodged under the brake or gas pedal interfering with their functioning and increasing the possibility of a car crash.

·      Remember, exposed feet need sunscreen.  Constant wearing of flip flops only allows harmful sun rays to cause sunburn which is bad for your skin and doesn’t make a very good fashion statement either.

What to look for when choosing a healthier flip-flop

·      Choose flip flops that bend only in the ball of the foot.  Most flip flops notoriously lack any kind of structure or support for the feet.  When purchasing flip flops, test them out first. If you can bend them in half or twist them into a pretzel, this is not good.  Choose ones that bend only where you need it to bend when walking which is at the ball of the foot. Flip-flops with minimal flexibility will provide better balance, arch support and alignment prevent foot fatigue. 

·      Check sizing of the flip flops. Try them on in the store making sure your heels and toes are not hanging off the edge of the sole.  This only increases your risk of getting a nasty cut or a painful stubbed toe.  Never buy oversized flip flops either.  They can catch on uneven surfaces and cause you to trip.

·      If your closet is filled with old flip flops from years past, it’s time to weed the old ones out.  Get rid of any with cracks in the sole or signs that the post is coming loose.  Any that show a deep indention in the sole showing the outline of your toes from last year means it’s time to replace them.