Summer is upon us, and that means warm weather, sun shine, shorts, t-shirts and sandals.
Many people love the feeling of walking around in a pair of open toed shoes when it is warm out. If you wear the right kind of sandals then you can have a great summer and be able to do all of the activities that you want to. But if you choose the wrong kind of sandals, then you can compromise your entire summer.
Flip flops are the worst kind of sandals. They have no support in them. They cause you to walk differently. You have to clench your toes to keep the flip flops on.
If you don’t have the correct type of support for your feet, then every step that you take will cause a minor trauma. If you have flat feet, then you have little to no arch in your foot. If you walk around in shoes with no support, then every step that you take your arch will collapse. This will put stress on the inside of your ankle. This stress and compensation will affect the muscles running up into your knee and hip. It can even affect your low back and into your shoulders.
If you have an ankle, knee, hip or low back issue, then walking around in shoes (or sandals) with poor support will easily flare up those issues. Even if you don’t have any of those issues, bad shoes can flare up those areas. But the flare will be worse if you have a history of ankle, knee, hip or low back problems.
Every summer it amazes me how many people walk around in flip flops for hours, even all day long. I had a patient who sprained his ankle. He told me that he knew how he did it. He went on vacation with his wife to Turkey. He said that it was really hot there, so he wore his flip flops. He got into trouble when he did a 2 hour hike in his flip flops. Even though he had no traumatic incidence, by the time he got back to his hotel after the hike, he said his ankle was killing him.
That is an extreme case of someone using and abusing flip flops. And most people won’t be doing 2 hour hikes in flip flops. But many people spend hours each day walking around in flip flops, running errands, walking around malls, grocery shopping, etc.
Flip flops are meant to be worn for 20 minutes at the most. Use them when lounging by a pool or walking around in a gym or spa bathroom. Don’t use them for walking half way across the city and back. Even if you feel like they don’t irritate you, they will bring on injury and pain. They will cause a problem to flare up earlier than it would otherwise.
Walking around in flip flops will cause low grade irritation in the ankle, knees and hips. This irritation will make you susceptible to easily spraining an ankle, knee or hip muscle, ligament or tendon, or throwing your back out. When something is already irritated, it doesn’t take much to further irritate it and flair it up.
There are many alternatives out there to traditional flip flops. Fit flops are a great alternative. There are like flip flops but with support in them and a thicker sole. I have had many patients who have had great success using fit flops. They can walk around in them for hours with no irritation.
Birkenstocks are another great alternative. They are solidly built sandals with a lot of support. The soles have a cork core, and therefore form to your foot.
Merrells and Tevas are also good alternatives. Both of these types of sandals have good support and well made soles. They will give much more support than a traditional pair of flip flops.
Whatever the type of sandal you choose, make sure to replace them after every season, especially if you wear them a lot. After a season the sandal itself can still look good, but the mid sole can wear out. Once the mid sole wears out, the sandal will give you compromised support, and you will start to get foot, ankle, calf, knee or hip issues.
Whatever type of shoe you wear, make an intelligent and informed decision about what you are putting on your feet, and what you are choosing to walk around in all day. All of our choices have implications on our overall health. Over health is a product of many factors (some large and some small), not just one irritation or health issue.
Just as many small irritations can build up to become a large irritation or injury, many small benefits can build up to provide a large amount of relief.
Be smart about your health. Make decisions that will positively impact your day to day health. Be smart about your health. Know what you are doing to your body. This is the Pain Free Way.
Here are a few other articles that I wrote about flip flops and their effects on our bodies: