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Flip Flop Your Way To The Podiatrists Office

Flip Flop Your Way To The Podiatrists Office

Flip-Flops may be cool and comfortable in the summer and perfect for the beach and swimming pool; however according to a recent news release by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the Flip Flop is not one of mankind’s best creations; certainly as far as foot health is concerned.

News networks around the world have spread the details of the report to highlight the dangers of flip flops, with podiatrists and doctors backing up the claims in the report and offering footwear advice for the summer to reduce the risk of injury. The Institute for Preventative Foot Health has been one of the most vocal organizations about the shortcomings of the flip flop, with director Bob Thompson reported as saying “flat sandals are nothing but bad news”.

Flat soled sandals have been used for many centuries without apparently causing major problems for foot health. While the latest headlines may read that flip flops are dangerous and unhealthy for the feet, it is not quite so simple. Claims that flip flops are dangerous and bad for the health makes great headline shoes with flip flops being such a popular choice of summer shoe, however flip flops have their uses and can actually be good for the feet. The important aspect of this footwear choice which needs to be considered is how often these shoes are worn, and the activities which are all too frequently undertaken while wearing them. Flip flops may be ideal for summer, but they are far from being an everyday summer shoe.

Flip flops do offer many benefits in the summer months and can be better than many of the alternatives. Wearing standard shoes in the heat of the summer when the feet swell up can similarly cause problems. In hot weather, standard shoes may be too restrictive, can cramp the toes and can affect the circulation.

Wearing flip flops rather than going barefoot has advantages too. In communal areas such as showers and swimming pools, flip flops can reduce the chance of picking up foot fungal infections such as Athlete’s Foot and plantar warts. Burning the soles of the feet on hot summer ground is far worse for foot health than wearing a pair of flip flops.

The news release has come very soon after the publication of the National Foot Health Assessment 2012
, which indicates that 78% of adults aged 21 or older have experienced foot problems at some point in their lives. Many articles are using these figures to suggest that were it not for flip-flops, this figure would be considerably lower. It is an association which has not been claimed by the 2012 Foot Health Assessment.

The comparison has been drawn as the most common foot ailments suffered in the United States can all too easily be caused by flip flop wear. The plastic thong style shoes can cause blisters, corns and calluses all too easily. Trips and falls are also more likely in a shoe which has a thin and flexible sole and no heel support. There can be no argument that each summer there are many flip-flop related injuries, and that many people sustain foot problems due to wearing flip flops and other sandals with no arch support, low stability and a flimsy design. The design of the flip flop has potential to be dangerous, and for people with foot problems they may not be ideal. However, claims that all flip flops are bad for the feet is taking the conclusions of the recent reports a step too far.

The problem has been summed up succinctly by Dr. Kathya Zinszer, the Associate Professor of Podiatric Medicine and Director of community outreach at Temple’s School of Podiatric Medicine. “If you wear them all the time, they aren’t good for you.” She goes on to say that “They are terrible for the arches. They give you no support and they don’t protect your feet.”

What is important is to bear in mind is that flip flops are not an everyday shoe which can be worn for all activities. They are unsuitable for sports and running, should not be worn when driving or cycling and walking long distances in flip flops has potential to be bad for the feet.

Flip flops offer no cushioning in the heel, shorten the stride and make changes to the walking gait which can be bad for the feet. The toes have to grip while walking, which is unnatural and can lead to stresses on the toes. Foot problems may be more likely to occur as a result of overpronation, such as plantar fasciitis and foot arch pain. This is more of a risk for flip flop wearers with low or fallen arches.

Flip flops vary in design considerably however, and there is a big difference between different brands and styles. The report appears to refer to the rubber soled and plastic strapped cheap summer shoes. Wearing shoes with leather or fabric straps, with an orthotic more rigid sole is far better for foot health, and this design may actually be therapeutic.

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) offers advice to help with maintaining healthy feet and provides a guide to choosing summer sandals to avoid a flip flop fiasco. Many models of summer sandals have been awarded with the AMPA seal of approval, indicating that not all summer flip flops and sandals are necessarily bad for the feet.

The main advice offered is never to choose a shoe which you can bend in half, as a rigid sole offers far better support. Leather straps will reduce the risk of blisters and skin irritation. Wearers should make sure they summer sandals fit properly and the toes do not protrude from the front of the sandals as this will make injuries more likely.