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Flip-Flops Are Among the Unhealthiest Shoes You Can Wear

Flip-flops may look like a summer staple, but they can be dangerous to your feet. According to podiatrists, flip-flops offer no support or cushioning for your feet, and that can lead to problems for your feet and the rest of your body.

two feet with painted toenails in flipflops on the beach

Those Painful Blisters

Flip-flops can cause blisters on your feet. These pesky and painful areas develop when flip-flops rub against your feet and abrade your skin. If you don’t watch them carefully, they can become infected. The thing about blisters is, you tend not to notice them until it’s too late. You put on flip-flops or other shoes that rub your feet in the morning and go about your business. After a while, you notice a vague soreness, but you’re busy, so you don’t think much of it. Only much later do you take off your flip-flops or shoes and discover the damage: angry red patches of skin, some of them already oozing fluid.

With flip-flops, blisters can form between your toes or on top of the foot where your foot rubs against the strap. Either way, it’s painful for your tootsies, and you might end up limping for the rest of the day. Best to leave the flip-flops at home, especially if you’ll be walking a long distance.

Flip-Flops Can Worsen Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot. If it gets strained or overstretched, it can cause pain and stiffness in the heel and bottom of the foot when you walk. The pain of plantar fasciitis is usually most pronounced when you first step out of bed in the morning. It’s a common condition that more often affects people with flat feet or arches that are too high.

If you have plantar fasciitis, you need arch support to reduce heel and foot pain when you walk and to avoid inflaming the plantar fascia. Some flip-flops are made with arch support, but most are not. When there is no support for your arches, the added trauma each time you take a step can inflame your plantar fascia.

Walking in Flip-Flops Can Lead to Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the large tendon that connects your heel bone to your heel and runs down the back of your calf. The Achilles tendon is particularly susceptible to injury due to its poor blood supply. This also makes it prone to degeneration (wear and tear), which is more common in people aged 40 years and older. As we age, our tendons become less flexible and less able to withstand stress.

Achilles tendonitis is most common in runners who suddenly increase the intensity or duration of their runs. It’s also common in middle-aged people who play sports, such as tennis or basketball, only on the weekends. Wearing flip-flops also increases the risk.

One cause of Achilles tendonitis is shortening and tightening of the calf muscles. Flip-flops put your feet in an extended position, which can cause your calf muscles to tighten, triggering Achilles tendonitis. For many people, this extension is not enough to cause problems. But if you have flat feet, which roll inward when you walk, this might push you over the edge into injury. If your feet are sensitive to this type of dysfunction, you may even notice pain after walking for just a few yards in flip-flops.

Flip-Flops Increase the Risk of Injury and Other Orthopedic Issues

When you walk around in open-toed shoes, even if they’re thick like flip-flops, you don’t get the same level of protection and support as you would from sneakers or other closed-toe shoes. These shoes are designed to protect your feet against injury while flip-flops are not.

Because flip-flops and other open-toed shoes give you less support, this can cause pain in the feet, ankles, and lower back. The positioning of these shoes also puts more stress on your knees. The lack of cushioning to absorb trauma each time you take a step increases the risk of stress fractures in the lower legs.

Certain activities are also unsafe to do while wearing flip-flops, including running or biking. Avoid wearing flip-flops if you expect to do these things, so that you don’t injure yourself. When you’re pedaling a bike while wearing flip-flops, the tip of the flip-flop can get caught in the pedal and lead to a serious injury.

Flip-Flops Change Your Gait

Did you know that flip-flops also change your gait? People who wear flip-flops tend to slide more when they walk, which causes their toes to grip harder. Flip-flop wearers also clinch their toes together to keep a grip on the flip-flops and keep them coming off. This places added stress on your feet and ankles and can lead to pain.

The Bottom Line

If the reasons listed above aren’t enough to convince you, maybe this will. A study that looked at flip-flops found that a single pair of flip-flops hosted more than 18,000 bacteria, some of them of fecal origin. Also, don’t drop anything on your feet when you’re wearing flip-flops. Your feet will definitely feel it! Maybe it’s time to switch flip-flops for a good pair of sneakers.


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