Ah, the sweet smell of springtime. Time to kick off those cramped winter boots, wiggle your toes, and step into some summer footwear. But before you drag out last season’s tried-and-true flip-flops, take a moment to consider the ways your favorite summer sandals may be affecting your foot health.
While you may love the breeze that hits your feet in flip-flops, this lightweight, open style comes at the cost of support. Most sandals are thin, flexible, and offer little arch support for the feet. This leaves flip-flop wearers with the potential to develop arch pain, heel pain, or plantar fasciitis. The lack of support can also worsen foot deformities, such as bunions and decreased motion of the first joint (hallux limitus), which tend to become more prominent when feet are allowed to pronate in shoes without an arch. The top of a typical shoe normally serves to keep it on the foot. Except for a thin strap between the toes, flip-flops lack an upper portion, meaning that the feet have to work harder to keep them on. Feet do this by flexing the toes, which serves as an anchor to prevent the sandal from falling off. Besides causing pain, this can also aggravate existing hammertoes (toes that are always contracted).
The open nature of flip-flops creates a potential for injury to the person wearing them. The lack of protection allows the foot to be easily cut or bruised, and there is no barrier against bacteria, leading to possible infection. This is especially important for those with diabetes, who are prone to even minor wounds quickly turning into serious infections.
So with these concerns in mind, what should you choose for your next stroll on the beach? Steer clear of flip-flops and go for a sandal with a back and supportive straps that cover the top of the foot. Choose one with plenty of arch support and minimal flexibility in the sole. If you can bend the sole in half, it is much too flexible! With comfortable, supported feet, you will be on your way to plenty of fun in the sun.