You wear them on vacation, when you’re grocery shopping, even when you’re out with friends on a hot summer day. Flip flops are a summertime wardrobe staple but should you be wearing them while you’re on your feet all day?
“They can have such fun designs on them and it’s a quick kind of footwear…because it’s so enticing, people don’t look at the injury you can get from them,” Dr. Katherine Tibor, a Toronto-based chiropractor and Ontario Chiropractic Association spokeswoman, told Global News.
“I’m not a big fan of flip flops. I understand you want to wear something that leaves feet cool, airy and not overheated but they’re quite unstable,” said Dr. Stanley Sweet, a Toronto-based podiatrist.
Here’s a handful of ways flip flops tamper with your feet:
No shock absorption: The sole of a flip flop is thin and isn’t meant to be worn for long distances. They’re meant to get you from your car to the beach, in short, Tibor said.
“Because they’re such a thin material, unlike a running shoe that can absorb the force you place on your foot, the flip flop can’t absorb the impact and the force has to settle in the foot, knee, ankle, hip or back. When that happens, you’ll feel aches and pains in the lower limbs and lower back,” Tibor warned.
Aches and pains: Tibor has seen patients who experience shin splints, a burning sensation in the lower leg, knee and ankle. It’s because your flip flop is barely adhering to your foot with a Y-shaped strap.
“Your toes are curling and trying to grip the rubber of the shoe…so you aren’t flying out of the flip flop so you’re utilizing muscles repetitively. It’s a strain,” Sweet said.
The next day, don’t be surprised if you feel pain when you’re trying to lift your foot off the ground.
Blisters and calluses: Without any support on the bottom of your foot, and a chance that you’re altering the way you’re walking so your foot can stick to your shoe, you could feel pain in the ball and heel of your foot.
There’s bad weight distribution in a pair of flip flops, Tibor notes. When your foot hits the ground, your toes bear most of the weight and the ball of your foot takes on a lot of pressure.
This is how calluses set in.
“Just by standing alone in a pair of poorly-supported footwear can increase pain in the heel as well as the ball of the foot. Calluses form when you put a lot of pressure into that area. If you already have callouses, you can possibly increase production of calluses,” Tibor said.
If the Y-shaped strap isn’t comfortable on your toes, you’re going to encounter blisters, too.
Sweet has even seen hammertoes or bunions set in from flip flop overuse.
Risk of injury: With your feet exposed and no backing to your shoe, mishaps could occur, the experts warn.
They’ve seen sprained ankles from tripping or falling while wearing flip flops as the most common injury. With a closed shoe, there’s a heel protecting the sole of your foot along with a support around your ankle. When you take a tumble, your shoes can help to ground you and break a fall.
“There’s this huge lack of stability. You’re not in touch with the ground and because these shoes move around, there’s propensity for blistering of feet, tripping and injuries,” Sweet said.
What to look for in a sturdy sandal: For now, save your flimsy flip flops for walking on the beach, gardening or lounging in your backyard, the experts.
If you need a sandal for longer distances, orthotic sandals can provide arch support and a reliable sole.
If you can bend your shoe’s sole in half, it won’t give you the shock absorption you need. Your sandal should come with a solid strap to keep your toes and heel in place, too.