The shoe to avoid like the plague is the flip flop. These casual favorites may seem breezy and comfortable, but flip flops sabotage your spine with every step.
It all comes down to your toes. To keep flip flops from falling off as you walk, you have to bunch up your toes. This compromises your ability to use the front of your foot to move forward and your hips will overcompensate to keep you moving. The result is lower body fatigue, muscle imbalances along the back of your leg, and an aching, tender lower back.
Thin, cheap flip flops do the most damage. There’s no cushion for your soles and no support in your toes. You may have a pair in every color of the rainbow, but you are 2.5 times less stable in flip flops than sneakers. You also take smaller steps than normal in flip flops and experience more impact pressure as you walk, adding stress to your spine and making you more likely to skip walking in favor of sitting in a car.
Think about it: the bones in your feet are the base of your skeleton and your body weight is riding on them. If your feet aren’t supported correctly, the rest of your bones, joint, tendons, and muscles have to make up for it. The stress shifts elsewhere and that leads to foot pain, heel pain, leg pain, hip pain, bad knees, sore back, and any number of other ailments.
Naturally, wearing flip-flops in the sauna, locker room, or by the pool won’t cause any harm. But as everyday footwear, we suggest you make a smarter choice.
So how exactly do flip-flops affect your feet?
Toes: That little thong that slips between your toes actually makes the muscles in your feet work overtime. The perpetual gripping this requires of your feet can lead to a nasty case of tendinitis, hammertoes, and bunions. Additionally, bare skin rubbing against the plastic or leather thong can lead to nasty blisters.
Fractures: With no support under your feet, all of that pressure from your body weight can create stress fractures in the bones of your feet. If you spend a lot of time on your feet in flip-flops, this is very likely to occur.
Bottom of your feet: The flip-flop isn’t stationary on your foot like an athletic shoe is. Since the bottom of your foot is in a constant sliding motion against the material, it can create a burning feeling or blisters, especially on hot days.
Arch and heel pain: If your footwear doesn’t support your arch, you run an excellent chance of developing plantar fasciitis, the inflammation of the band of tissue which runs along the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel to your arch. Pain may be felt anywhere along the plantar fascia.
Think about running or even walking briskly in flip-flops. How easy is it to sprain your ankle or worse?
Look for shoes that stay on your feet without abnormal movements, and a good arch support – or go barefoot when you can. That’s better for you than flip-flops.