Flip-Flops May Be Hazardous to Your Health
When I see women pounding the pavement in high heels, I have to cringe. And if that isn’t bad enough, now both men and women are walking around in flip-flops all the time. As a nutrition counselor, I have learned that the fate of your weight is determined by your feet. Most physical activity depends on the use of your feet and, if they don’t work, losing weight becomes nearly impossible because it’s hard to create a calorie deficit without physical activity. And so my problem with flip-flops, like high heels, is that regular wearing can ruin your feet.
Walking is a very complex motor function involving over 300 muscles and 150 bones, plus ligaments, joints and other anatomical features. The correct way to walk is heel-to-ball-to-toes and push off. Anything interfering with the natural gait affects postural alignment, body balance, body mechanics, and equilibrium. Shoes alone mess with the way we walk and flip-flops are particularly bad.
How flip-flops do damage
Flip-flops can cause persistent ankle and foot pain by altering gait. Researchers in biomechanics at Auburn University proved it when they filmed and measured foot impact in college students wearing flip-flops. They found that flip-flop wearers took shorter steps resulting in more stress on the body to get to where they’re going. Flip-flop wearers also scrunched their toes to keep the shoe on, which prevented other muscles from lifting the toes to push off.
Over time, hardcore flip-flop wearers often experienced muscle and joint pain in the lower legs and their toes sometimes became tender and throbbed. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) reports more arch pain and heel pain from plantar fasciitis in flip-flop wearers. In addition, the pain is more problematic when the wearers are overweight or sedentary. Other flip-flop foot problems include inflammation of the Achilles tendon, painful pinched nerves, sprained ankles, broken or sprained toes, cuts and scrapes, plantar warts, Athlete’s foot, and callus build-up on the heels and toes. When you put it all together, it's hard to image how flip-flops are worth it.
Around the pool, in the locker room and after a pedicure, flip flops are perfect, but they are not meant for extensive walking and certainly not for every day. Everyone should wear a shoe with good support or go barefoot around the house, rotate the shoes that are worn frequently, and wear sandals that have arch support and another strap to keep them on. And people with diabetes should never go barefoot or wear an open shoe. (See these foot care recommendations from the American Diabetes Association.)
Bottom Line: Your feet are your foundation and, if your foundation isn’t solid, you will crumble in time. Protect your future weight by judiciously wearing flip-flops (if at all) today.
Do you live in flip-flops? Have you had problems with your legs or feet?