By Riva Preil
Sure, they may be cute, comfortable, and convenient in an attempt to beat the summer heat…but from a biomechanical perspective, flip-flops may be a poor choice for your summer footwear. Consider the force that is sent through the lower extremities to the pelvis and spine with each step…multiply that by 10,000 (the recommended amount of steps individuals should take daily)= an immense amount of force is transmitted through the feet and up the kinematic chain each day. During the normal gait pattern, individuals enter the stance phase (upon completion of the swing phase) with heel strike, followed by foot flat (when the entire foot contacts the ground) and completed with push off through the large toe. However, flip-flop-wearers take shorter steps, clench their toes excessively (to prevent the flip flop from falling off), and perform heel strike with a decreased amount of vertical force compared to sneaker-wearers. The poor support offered by flip flops is unfortunately associated with developing plantar fasciitis (tightness of the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot), knee, hip, and even low back pain.
You may be saying to yourself, “Fine, Riva, I get it…but I’d like to see you try getting a pedicure in sneakers!” Point well taken, it is not practical or fun to completely eliminate flip-flops from one’s wardrobe. However, try to replace flip-flops every 3-4 months considering how quickly they lose support. Furthermore, try not to wear them for prolonged periods of time. Leather flip-flops provide more support than plastic ones, and avoid wearing socks with flip flops. Finally, make sure that they fit properly- there should be full support from heel to toe. By following these simple suggestions, you can enjoy your flip flops in tip top health this summer. Have a happy and healthy summer from all of us at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy!