Flip Flops & Your Feet

There are 206 bones in the human body and 52 of those bones are located in the two feet. That means that approximately one quarter of all the bones in the body are located in the feet. This serves to show that it is very important to take proper care of your feet. Unfortunately, around this time of the year many people choose to do just the opposite when the all too familiar “flip-flops” come out in the warmer weather.

Approximately 70% of people have feet that biomechanically do not function properly. The majority of these fall into a category called over-pronators. Over pronators generally have flat arches and feet that over rotate toward the inside. This puts increased pressure on parts of the feet but also can affect the ankles, knees, hips and lower back. The opposite category is called over-supinators. In this case the feet generally have normal to high arches but the feet fail to rotate inwardly properly and so they fail to help to absorb some of the shock of the foot on heel strike when walking and running. The point is that in both cases, proper footwear can help to minimize the problems that poorly functioning feet can cause and conversely, poor footwear (flip-flops) will amplify these problems.

Now that we understand that the majority of society have feet that aren’t functioning optimally, when the summer flip flops come out this only makes the problem worse. As a chiropractor, I can’t help but cringe when I see what people’s feet are doing during the summer as I observe them walking around in their flip flops. Even more so in my office when the steady stream of people coming in starting around June with foot pain that seems to occur every summer and yet they’re sure that it can’t be related to their foot wear choices.

First and foremost flip flops by their very nature have no arch support and so they allow the foot to over-pronate. Flip flops are generally very flimsy and so obviously have very little capacity to absorb shock and impact on heal strike when walking or running. Flip flops also adversely affect the gait as they force the wearer to take shorter strides and in so doing also cause the heel to hit the ground with greater force and impact. This feature amplifies the problems particularly experienced by over supinators. Flip flops create extra strain on the Achilles tendon and on the toes as the tendency for them to want to slide off of the foot causes these areas to work harder.

Now that we have thoroughly beaten up flip flops and hopefully made you think about throwing them out or at least minimizing the amount that you wear them there are some alternatives. There are some excellent choices in summer footwear and sandals that serve to keep your feet cool but also support them. There are many brands of sandals that now come with the ability to have a custom made orthotic insert put right into the foot bed. So, for those of you that wear orthotics for most of the year but then put them away in the closet over the summer, there are options. Even off the shelf sandals with a few good features will help to eliminate many of the problems that flip flops create.

First be sure to find a sandal that has a good supportive foot-bed that provides some shock absorption and support for your arches. Straps that are relatively wide and fit comfortably to hold your feet in place as well as decrease friction are important. A strap at the back of the sandal will help hold it in place and minimize the strain on the toes and Achilles tendon as well as to helping to keep your gait as normal as possible. These are a few of the important features that can be found on many different choices for the summer so trade in the flip flops for some good supportive summer footwear.