How to wear flip-flops safely this summer

June 8, 2017

Flip-flops or sandals with little support are fine in moderation. Understandably many people love to wear them in the summer because they keep your feet cool, are easy to put on and come in many colors, patterns and styles. They’re also relatively inexpensive. And if you’re headed to the beach, no other footwear sheds sand as easily.

“My recommendation is to only wear flip-flops occasionally,” says Dr. Robert Shire, one of the chiropractors in our center. “Choose ones that feel comfortable the first time you slip your feet into them. Quite often these are also the ones with ample arch support.”

One problem with flip-flops is the extra impact on your heels as you walk. Another is the fact that your toes need to work overtime to keep flip-flops on your feet. That effort can lead to stiffness and pain. In addition, the thin, sometimes stiff straps can also cause blisters, which can be very painful. Flip-flops cause you to shorten your stride (and walk with caution), which can affect your biomechanics and alter your posture.

“If people have alignment issues already, they can be exacerbated with prolonged flip-flop use,” says Angela Park, a physical therapist at our center.   “The lack of support with most flip-flops can cause awkward compensations to occur up the chain, possibly leading to increased heel pain, knee pain, and even back pain.”

With flip-flops on, your body overcompensates because of the lack of support and this can result in Achilles tendonitis as well as heel and back pain.

Despite all these issues that flip-flops can cause, we know you’ll still wear them, so: 

  • Spend a little more for higher quality flip-flops. Quite often these are made with soft leather, have a better foot bed with arch support and are made with more durable materials, including a sole that will last longer. Sandals with heel indents and arch support will allow you to walk more naturally and require less effort to keep them on your feet. We sell custom orthotic flip-flops in the office from the brand Foot Levelers (pictured below), which feature ample arch support.

  • Relegate them to when you are near a pool, ocean or lake. This will help keep flip-flop-wearing time in check. Once you are inland you can switch to slip-on canvas sneakers and still maintain that feeling of freedom, but with heel support added.

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