Support Your Feet

Feet 7-3-14

After a rough winter for much of the country, many people are relishing the warm weather. Coats and hats have been replaced with t-shirts and sunglasses. And boots have been cast aside for the ultimate summer shoe—the flip-flop. These days, everyone is in flip-flops, including me.


But I’ve noticed that flip-flops are no longer reserved for the beach or the pool. People seem to live in them. They’re running errands in them, riding bikes in them, and even wearing them to work. It made me wonder if all of that flip-flop wearing was good for our feet.


Flip-flops are designed to be light, airy, and rather flimsy. That’s what makes them ideal for warm weather. And they’re perfect for slipping on and off quickly and easily. That makes them ideal for the beach or taking the dog for a short walk around the block. But that also means that they’re not very supportive or protective. Most flip-flops don’t offer a lot of arch support. And their thin soles mean they’re not great when it comes to shock absorption either. And have you ever stubbed your toe or dropped something on your foot while wearing flip-flops? Then you know that they don’t offer a lot of protection either.


And when it comes to common foot problems, flip-flops are more of a foe than a friend. Do you have plantar fasciitis? Or Achilles tendonitis? Flip-flops might be making those problems worse. The lack of support and cushioning can aggravate these common conditions. However, in small doses, making an effort to curl your toes to keep the flip flops on your feet can help to strengthen the little muscles of the foot that support the arch.


Flip-flops also may affect the way you walk. One study found that wearing flip-flops can affect your stride. You likely take shorter steps when you’re wearing flip-flops then you would if you were barefoot or wearing athletic shoes. For a stroll around the pool, that won’t matter much. But if you’re on your feet all day in flip-flops, the change in how you walk might cause pain in your feet, your hips, and your lower back.


That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever wear flip-flops. Flip-flops are still great for the beach or the pool, for a quick errand, or for a short walk. But you probably don’t want to wear them every day, all day, all summer long.


Here are some helpful guidelines for when to leave your flip-flops behind:

  • For long walks, opt for a supportive walking shoe rather than your flip-flops.
  • When you’re working around the house or the yard, wear closed-toed shoes to protect your feet. Many jobs also require you to wear closed-toed shoes.
  • If you’re running or playing sports, stick with athletic shoes to prevent twists, sprains, or breaks.


When you do wear flip-flops, make sure you’re wearing a decent pair. Your feet will thank you. Before you dust off last year’s pair, look them over. If they look too worn, you may want to buy a new pair. Here are some tips for choosing a good pair of flip-flops:

  • Choose a leather flip-flop. Leather will irritate your foot less than other materials.
  • Make sure it’s sturdy, but flexible. It should bend near the ball of the foot, rather than in the middle.
  • Check that they fit properly. For instance, make sure your foot doesn’t hang off of the edge.


And remember, flip-flops aren’t the only style of sandal available. Brands like Teva® and Chaco® make other styles of sandals with sturdy soles and ankle straps. These are more supportive and better for your feet. If you’re going to be wearing them for longer periods of time, a sturdy sandal is probably your best bet. They may be a bit pricier, but your feet are worth it