Flip or Flop?!?Jul 09, 2021
By: Karyssa Shaw & Nick Sienkiewicz, DPT, CSCS
Are Your Flip Flops Causing Your Foot Pain?
Summer is here! Time to break out the shorts, tank tops, sunglasses, and flip flops... right?
Here at ProForm, we love the saying "free the feet.” Summer is the perfect time to "free the feet" because now that it's warm outside, we are able to kick off the winter boots and trade them in for something where we can wiggle our toes freely and get rid of those sneaker tan lines!
I'll be the first to admit it - I have at least 10 pairs of flip flops! I have some that I wear to the beach/pool, some that are on the "dressier" side, and some that are casual enough to wear out to dinner. They really are my summer staple. However, they may not be the best option for your foot health.
Think about it; when you're out walking around, are you aware of what your feet are doing as you're walking? Subconsciously, your toes are going to curl to try to keep the flip flop on with each step. This is instinctive and no matter how hard you attempt to not curl your toes, you won't win because your body is fighting to keep the shoe from falling off your foot. When this occurs over numerous steps, it can cause overactivity in these muscles that curl the toes and drive muscle imbalances in the lower leg.
The curling of your toes also forces the arch in your foot maintain its raised and rigid position, which ultimately tightens and irritates the plantar fascia. Many of you know this to be called "plantar fasciitis,” which is a very common ailment these days.
Not only do flip flops cause compression and irritation in your foot if worn for long periods of time, but if you're experiencing calf tightness or pain in the summers, it could be as a result to wearing flip flops. Your body is made up of 600+ muscles that are all connected. In particular, you have "short" muscles in your foot and “long” muscles in your calf that should work together to move your foot and ankle. The curling action of the toes while wearing flip flops actually biases the long muscles in your calf causing them to overwork, which leads to tightness and can result in calf pain.
We certainly aren't saying to go toss all of your flip flops in the trash. They are totally fine to wear for short periods of time or when walking short distances, such as to the beach, out to the pool, or around your yard.
If you plan on being on your feet all day, try to choose a shoe that is better for your foot health overall. Find an open-toed shoe with a strap that ideally wraps around your heel. This type is best because your brain won't need to worry about them falling off as you walk. One is example is Birkenstocks because not only do they offer styles with straps, but they also have a wide toe box which is great for your toes!
So, as much as you may love your flip flops, you should love the health of your feet more! Knowledge is power, so be mindful about your footwear selections this summer and in summers to come. That way you won't have to make a visit to the podiatrist in the future!
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