With summer finally here, it’s time to break out the flip flops, or is it? Flip flops are easy to slip on and can be worn with most of your summer gear (not to mention they allow you to show off your fresh pedicure) but these comfy and casual shoes may be leading you down the road to some serious health issues rather than fun in the sun.
A flip flop’s sole can help reduce the load
Not all the news is bad on this front: The flat, flexible sole of a flip flop does offer some advantages. In a study published in Arthritis Care & Research in 2010, researchers found that this type of flat, flexile sole helps reduce the load on the knee joints when compared to shoes with supportive, more stable soles. But...
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Flip flops can exacerbate existing foot issues
“Wearing flip flops all the time can be harmful, especially if you have a condition such as flat feet,” says Dr. Andrew Klayman, a podiatrist based in Toronto, noting that they can lead to acute strain or even slight tearing of the tendon. “They’re very flat and offer no support, and there’s no strap system to hold your foot into place on them so your foot flies around,” he adds. Klayman says they’re fine in moderation. If you’re at the beach or by the pool, flip flops make sense, but he does not recommend taking walks in them, noting that flip flops can strain your arch and you can roll over an ankle easily when wearing them.
Flip flops can change how you walk
In a study presented in 2008 at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, researchers found that people alter their gait when walking in flip flops—changing the force and angle at which their feet strike the ground. This altered stride could be why some flip flop fans experience pain in the lower legs.
Flip flops can make you sick
Studies have shown that flip flops harbour more than 18,000 types of bacteria—including everything from fecal matter and skin to respiratory germs and a potentially lethal germ, Staphylococcus aureus. And considering how easy it is to get a cut or blister on our feet in the summer, and how often we pick up our flip flops with our hands, these germs may easily find their ways into our systems.
Flip flops offer little shock value
Another hazard of flip flops are their thin soles, says Dr. Klayman. “They offer no shock absorption, and if you’re walking on concrete, you need footwear that’ll absorb more,” he says, adding that it is possible to wear flip flops without realizing the pain and future injury they are inflicting until it is too late.
What to look for in your summer footwear
Ready to ditch the flip flops for something healthier? Look for shoes that offer your feet the support they need (especially your foot’s arch). Straps that hold the shoe securely to your foot (compared to the dangerous looseness of a flip flop) is important, too, as is a sturdier outer sole, says Dr. Klayman. His top shoe brand choices? Naot, Teva, Mephisto and Alegria. And if you’re wondering about that other favourite shoe of the summer, Crocs? Crocs offer more support than a flip flop, however, he recommends them more for lounging and short strolls rather than any extended walks.
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