Whenever I see a patient with a lower limb injury come into the practice wearing flip-flops I cringe inside. Really, these simple bits of plastic are causing a lot of pain and injury and are not something you should wear all day.
Flip-flops absolute lack of arch or heel support puts you at risk of unnecessary pain and injury. We are (I am generalizing here) so careful to wear the best footwear when exercising, keeping up to date with the latest running shoes, orthotics, braces etc but when it comes to relaxing and what we wear outside of work and sport – we aren’t so smart. A study found that in a large shopping center, 43% of all women were wearing flip-flops(1) – That is a huge amount of foot, calf, shin, knee and back pain! Yes this may keep Physio’s and podiatrists in business but it keeps a lot of the population out-of-pocket – And often there is a very simple thing you can do to ease your pain and injuries….
Throw your thongs away!!
Really flip-flops aren’t that bad if you just wear them to the beach, around the changing room or shower etc – It’s when you start wearing them out shopping, to lunch, all day, everyday that they can cause real problems. What problems can flip-flops cause you may ask? and why? Flip-flops can lead to:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Stress fractures – Hence the moon boots
- Shin splints
- Calf pain and strains
- Foot pain e.g. Mortons neuroma, metatarsalgia
- Low back pain
- and more
Flip-flops change the way we walk
They wouldn’t be so bad if our feet weren’t so weak and de-conditioned. Yes we evolved to roam the open plains and jungles barefoot but now that we live in this concrete world – we need a little more protection for our feet. Also because we so often wear cushioned supportive shoes the rest of the time, our feet are not able to handle the complete lack of control and support when wearing flip-flops – Like sleeping on a nice comfy bed one night and then on concrete the next – You will get sore right?
And because they change the way we walk, we use our muscles in a different way, while increasing the shock going through and feet and legs due to lack of shock absorption. Wear them for a long time and the repetitive strain leads to overuse injuries. For example:
- Every time you step, you need to squeeze and scrunch your toes to hold the flip-flops in place! Meaning your feet and calf have to work very, very hard = tight, tight calves.
- Due to the total lack of arch support the arch can repeatedly over-pronate, increasing the stretch on your plantar fascia. Repeat this over hundreds of steps and you get micro-tears, inflammation and pain. You can read more about this here.
Good things in moderation
So, you don’t need to go and throw your flip-flops out but PLEASE limit the amount you wear them as they can be a huge cause of pain and injuries. This is also such an easy thing to change that can drastically improve your function and decrease injury risk, so why not do it huh?
Addendum: As a proud Kiwi I feel I should give a quick history on the proud origin of flip-flops.. or should I say Jandals! The flip-flops was originally invented in Auckland, New Zealand in 1950. The idea came from the original Japanese sandals which allied soldiers saw while doing occupation duty in Japan during WWII. The original name Jandal (Japanese sandal) was trademarked so that lead to other countries having t come up with other names such as:
- Thongs, etc
So wear this great invention in moderation and save yourself a lot of trouble. Please Share, like and comment away!