Dr. Therese Losi is a podiatrist on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center. Dr. Losi’s office can be reached at (623) 640-1799.
Question: Flip-flops are common footwear for people living in the Valley. But I recently heard that flip-flops may be bad for the feet. Is this true?
Answer: Flip-flops can be stylish to wear, convenient to slip on, and help keep your feet cool. But, recent studies suggest that your favorite summertime footwear may also cause some unintended problems in your feet, ankles, knees, hips and back.
Researchers have found that wearing flip-flops alters the way people walk. Because flip-flops easily fall off when walking, people tend to take shorter steps, shuffle their feet, scrunch their toes, and turn their ankles inward. These altered walking mechanics, coupled with the lack of foot and ankle support, can cause undue stress and pain in the structures of the feet and legs. If flip-flops are worn frequently, these strains and pains can become persistent, and sometimes serious, problems.
The lack of support and loose fitting, not to mention poor tread quality, also increase the risk of injury. Slips, falls, sprained ankles, and stepping on sharp objects are all common hazards of sporting flip-flops.
What’s more is flip-flops offer very little in the way of protection for the feet; therefore, if you are diabetic, I urge you not to wear flip-flops. Exposed feet are much more vulnerable to falling objects, stubbed toes, cuts and scrapes, bruises, sunburn, bug bites, and so on. Further, because flip-flopped feet are exposed to the elements, they get dirty easily, which increases the chance of infection in cuts, scrapes and sores
So, does this mean you need to terminate your flip-flop friendship? Not necessarily--as most of my patients are reluctant to give up their beloved flip-flops. Instead, I encourage practicing flip-flop moderation. It’s also recommended that you routinely replace your flip-flops before they become too worn. However, try to avoid buying pairs that are cheap, flimsy, and flat-soled. Moderate wearing of flip-flops that offer arch support, fit well, provide some level of stability, and are made of proper materials can help minimize the risk of strains, pains, and injuries.