Jun 25

The Hidden Dangers of Your Favorite Pair of Flip Flops!

Capture.104816Ah, the warm days of summer have finally arrived and what does this mean? It is flippy floppy time! As good as it is to feel the air on your toes; your flip flops may cause a myriad of orthopedic conditions that might put a damper on your summer plans. When you make the sudden change from supportive boots to your flimsy flip flops, your feet, no, your whole body doesn’t have time to adapt to the new loads. Here is what happens to each part of your foot/body:

Toes: Your toes need to grip the small strip of fabric that is holding your foot in place. Over time, that repetitive gripping will lead to the overuse of muscles, which then can lead to painful inflammation of the tendons (tendonitis).  Also, the constant gripping with your toes can lead to hammer toes, which are contractures of the joints that cause the toe to bend abnormally and encourage bunion formation.

Bones: The overuse of the small structures of your feet can also lead to stress fractures in the bones.  These are caused by the repetitive trauma of walking without any cushioning to absorb the shock.

Arch/Heel: The plantar fascia is a thick band that runs from the heel to the ball of your foot, creating the arch. The lack of support in a flip flop can lead to inflammation of the plantar fascia, called plantar fasciitis. The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is a dull or sharp pain in the heel whenever you place weight on it or extend your toes. Also, open backed flip flops can promote heel pain by allowing the back of the foot to repeatedly raise off the shoe.

feet_iStock_000000510248XSm.105010Ankles and Up! When you are wearing flip flops, you are carrying your foot differently than you do in a more supportive shoe. You can actually change the way you walk! A study has shown that people who wear flip flops take shorter steps and hit their heels to the ground with less vertical force, which can throw off their natural gait. This sudden change in gait can trigger pain and problems in your ankles, knees, hip and even your low back!

Tips! Now that it finally feels like summer in Halifax, make sure to ease into wearing your flip flops. Start with wearing them for 15-20 minutes at a time to allow your feet and body to adapt to the different body mechanics. As your body gets used to this, you may start wearing them for a little longer, up to an hour. If you are planning to walk for longer, wear more supportive shoes or sandal. Here are some tips for the next pair of sandals to get:

• Find a pair that fit properly, without your toes or heels hanging (even a little) off the end.
• The Bend Test-if you can bend the flip flop right down the middle, it is too bendy! It should only bend at the ball of the foot when you need it for walking.
• Pick something that has a thicker sole and a little bump in the middle to create arch support.
Strap it in! Look for a sandal with a strap across the back or at least longer straps in the front in order to keep the foot on the shoe.
• A thicker and softer material, such as leather, will reduce blisters and provide more shock absorption.

If you found that you have moved too quickly into wearing your flip flops and now experiencing feet or ankle pain, book an appointment with a physiotherapist at Balance Physiotherapy. We can determine how to help with your pain and to get you back on your feet for the time in the sun!

– Erika Turner, PT

Do you want to encourage a loved one to become healthier? Consider a gift certificate. We offer gift certificates for both massage therapy and physiotherapy. They also make great birthday presents!

For more information about our services, see our website at: www.findyourbalance.ca