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Are Flip Flops a Flop for Feet? Choosing the Perfect Sandal

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With the warm weather finally here, many people are kicking off their shoes and replacing them with sandals, worse than that, with flip flops. These easy to slip on, fashionable summer shoes have been known in the past to do more harm than good to our feet and legs.

The problem with wearing a basic flip flop is that people tend to walk everywhere with them on their feet. From the park, to the beach, to the office and to the mall without realizing the damage they are doing to their feet.

With the basic flip flop’s lack of support, your feet and legs end up overcompensating and work harder than they need to while you are walking. They cause the toes to contract making the muscles in the front of the leg work when they should be at rest. Strain in the arch ligaments can cause severe pain in the heel and arch region of the foot. This can lead to a condition known as plantar fasciitis and often requires treatment once it has developed. Ankle sprains are another common injury associated with wearing flip flops. Due to flip flops not having a heel cup, your foot and ankle lacks rearfoot stability while you are walking and therefore your ankle could roll over on its side, potentially tearing ligaments.

The difficulties caused by this style of footwear can be widespread and can also lead to pain in the knees, hips and back. The flip flop structure provides minimal support in the arch or heel, leading to an unstable gait pattern. This can cause less than optimal biomechanical alignment starting at your feet and can lead to strains in your knees and lower back. Those who overpronate (roll to the inside of their feet excessively), should avoid flip flops due to this minimal arch support and foot control.

With all this negativity toward the basic flip flop, shoe companies have acknowledged that this type of footwear is very fashionable. They have now constructed a stronger, more supportive footbed to hold our foot in place, thus providing some type of support while keeping with the flip flop style. This type of flip flop is a great improvement from the basic style but still does not have as many supportive features as some sandals may provide.

How To Choose Sandals That Are Good For Your Feet

You do not necessarily need to sacrifice style in the quest for smarter footwear this summer. Save the basic flip flops for the beach and backyard, and invest in something attractive yet supportive for when you’re walking around. Here are some supportive sandal shopping tips:

  • Choose a sandal with a supportive yet lightweight outer sole that provides shock absorption
  • Look for sandals with a deeper heel cup (area where your heel will fit) to increase your heel stability and help prevent ankle sprains
  • Orthotic-friendly sandals and sandals with an arch bed already in them allow for better stability and support and at the same time can still be fashionable
  • Go for solid strapping in a sandal, such as Velcro strapping or a pulley-lock fit system in technical support sandals. This will help hold your foot in place

Submitted by:  Melissa Bendo B.Kin., C. Ped. (C) Walkerton, Ontario

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