Summer Footwear: Can Flip-flops Lead to Foot and Ankle Problems?

With the warm summer days upon us, many people are choosing flip-flops as their go-to summer footwear. Flip-flops are cool, comfy, and easy to wear but are held on the foot with just a thin strap between two toes and that can lead to serious foot problems.

Flip-flops, as popular as they are in a variety of summer styles for both casual and formal wear, provide very little foot support and do not hold the feet securely in place when walking. They do provide basic protection on the ground against hot sand or pavement, foreign objects, as well as athlete’s foot and warts from the dirty floors. However, flip-flops can lead to a multitude of other injuries of the foot and ankle as they offer no arch support, heel cushioning, or shock absorption. Therefore, those who wear flip-flops for prolonged periods of time may experience foot and ankle pain, peroneal tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and blisters from stubbed toes or even more serious injuries.

The other problem of wearing flip-flops is that it changes the gait cycle as it forces you to take shorter strides to get the foot onto the ground faster and prevent the flip-flops from falling off by squeezing the toes together to clasp the flop-flip strap. This action shortens the natural steps within the gait cycle and causes the foot and leg muscles to work harder, which can result in overuse injuries such as tendonitis or shin splints.

Flip-flops lacking the proper arch support can cause plantar fasciitis, which is inflammation of the thick band of ligament along the bottom of the foot, especially in the heel. Often times there is greater incidence of plantar fasciitis after the summer season due to the long periods of wearing flip-flops. People who tend to over pronate their feet or have flatter feet are more predisposed to such overuse injuries due to requiring more support for their foot arches. One of the most serious problems with flip-flops is a stress fracture of the metatarsals, the long bones leading out to the toes. This happens after constant, repetitive micro-trauma to the bones. Flip-flops also do not hold or support the ankle as it bends and can lead to another common injury of ankle sprains.

The following are precautions that may be recommended by your doctor or podiatrist to prevent foot and ankle problems from when you do wear flip-flops:

  • Flip-flops in moderation: the key is not over wear flip-flops and to wear them for short distances.
  • Flip-flops are not an athletic shoe. Wear your stylish flip-flops only on flat surfaces.
  • Do not wear flip-flops when mowing the lawn or operating heavy equipment. They increase the risk of foot lacerations, wounds, and/or crush injuries by having a heavy object fall on your foot.
  • Do not drive in flip-flops. There is an increased risk of car accidents because they are detrimental to a driver’s control if they come off the foot and fall under the brake or gas pedal.

Despite the issues with flip-flops, you do not have to completely avoid wearing them in the hot summer when taking these precautions above. Your podiatrist may recommend skipping on the cheap flip-flops and spending more on sandals with thick-cushioned soles, deeper heel cups, and arch supports. You may also ask your podiatrist for advice on which brands of sandals may best fit your feet. It is important to see your doctor or podiatrist if any issues do result from over wearing your flip-flops and to keep your feet injury-free and ready for the summer.

Please visit our website for more information or call 614-885-3338 (FEET) to schedule an appointment with us at our Columbus, Gahanna or Dublin, OH office.