Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


Healthy Summer: Are Flip Flops Bad For You?

Where health and fashion collide...

Flip-flops are the quintessential summer footwear, and we all love them. But…are they good for you?

Sad to say, but no.

Here’s the deal with flip flops. Their chronic use is linked with a variety of health issues, like plantar fasciitis (a painful inflammation of the tissues of the heel and arch) and low back pain.

Why? It seems wearing flip flops changes your natural gait. Because when you’re walking in them, you tend to clench your toes to keep them from flying off your feet. This action has the consequence of shortening your gait, and changing your heel strike with each step (giving it less vertical force, which is less natural). Flip flops seem natural, they feel natural, but the fact is they change the natural mechanics of the way we move our bodies. Plus, they don’t provide any support to the foot, particularly the arch. Which can also contribute to joint pain in the knees, hips, and back, and may also lead to stress fractures in the fine bones of the feet.

I don’t have anything against flip flops, personally. I love my Havaianas (my favourite pair have a sassy black and gunmetal grey zebra print that I got from the UK...where they call them thongs. But I'll save that little gem of a topic for another day).

I don't believe you have to throw your flip flops out with next week's garbage. My advice is this: don’t wear flip flops every day or for every occasion. Hanging out at the beach or strolling on a pool deck? Flip flop away. Stepping out on a five kilometre hike or marathon shopping trip? Not so much.

Also, podiatrists recommend making sure your flip flops fit you properly (one size does not fit all) and choosing a flip flop made with high quality, soft leather instead of plastic or other materials—fewer blisters and irritation.