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Orthopedic Surgeon Discusses Flip-Flops

Flip flop injuries, orthopedic surgeon, woman falling when wearing flip flops

No Foot Support Leads to Foot Pain

Unlike sturdy shoes, flip-flops aren’t good for extensive walking because they offer no arch support, heel cushioning, or shock absorption, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). Wearers can suffer foot pain due to lack of arch support, tendinitis, and even sprained ankles if they trip.

Beware of Foot Injury

Flip-flops, also known as shoe thongs in some areas, don’t offer any arch support for your foot. Because the sole of flip-flops is thin rubber or another material, your foot is as flat as possible — which, for most people, is not ideal. You can suffer from arch and heel soreness, as well as foot pains and excessive pressure.

The footwear also doesn’t provide any protection for your feet and has no heel cushioning. Instead, a thin rubber material acts as the sole of the shoe. Because your heel often has less than one inch of protection from the ground, flip-flops don’t offer shock absorption. When you’re walking, your feet endure extreme amounts of force.

When you wear a shoe thong with no arch, ankle or heel support, protection or shock absorption, you can suffer from foot pain, sprained ankles or tendinitis. If you wear flip-flops for extended periods, you increase the risk of foot injuries, discomfort and other bodily soreness’s.

Several adverse effects of wearing flip-flops include blisters, foot fungus, balance issues, strained or overextended tendons, shooting pains, plantar fasciitis, foot swelling and more.

At best, moderation will help you avoid these discomforts. Wear flip-flops only when you find it most necessary. For example, wearing shoe thongs to the beach, pool, spa or public shower is often practical. However, they are not ideal for extensive walking or hiking activities. Try to avoid walking long distances, and wear them for shorter periods of movement like running errands.

For people with diabetes, any foot injury can become serious. At Perimeter Orthopaedics, Dr. Spiegl and his staff explore every option before resulting in amputation for the benefit of diabetic patients.  

Problems and Symptoms

While flip-flops are all the craze once the warmer months roll around, people tend to rely on them more than necessary. If you stick to wearing this unsupportive and unprotected form of footwear only during specific occasions, you can limit the possible long-term effects. However, when you start slipping on the flip-flops as your daily attire, problems begin to arise.

Continuously wearing flip-flops can affect various parts of your body, such as your posture, toes, skin, heels and arches. Flip-flops don’t bend the same way your feet do, therefore changing your body’s biomechanics — in other words, the function, structure and motion of your body.

Flip-flops can affect your physique beyond your feet by aggravating your joints and messing with your body’s proper alignment. The shoes can also increase knee, lower back and hip pain, causing you to position yourself in various postures to reduce the amount of agony. Without the proper arch and heel support, your hips, knees and back can suffer from alignment issues.

Flip-Flops and Backyard Sports

Don’t run or play sports in flip-flops. Instead, always wear proper sports shoes. Orthopedic surgeons have treated many people who ran or jumped in flip-flops and suffered sprained ankles, fractures, and severe ligament injuries that required surgery over the years.

Flip-flops do not offer you the support that an athletic shoe would offer. Dr. Spiegl adds, “Unsupported feet take a lot more stress than supported feet. If you try to use your flip-flop as an athletic shoe – you may be asking for trouble.”

Cause Shooting Pains

Everyone needs the right amount of arch support — whether you have flat feet or a high arch — and flip-flops don’t provide any at all. Your joints have to work extra hard in flat footwear, which can lead to the overuse of your ligaments. You can begin to feel sharp pains up your body from heel strains, pinched back nerves and an aching Achilles tendon.

A common form of foot pain from wearing flip-flops is plantar fasciitis. This condition occurs when you experience irritation and shooting soreness in the connective tissues between your toes and heel. You can often feel discomfort on the bottom or inside of your heel.

Your foot’s plantar fascia tissue supports your natural arch and becomes taut when your foot bears weight. But if you place repetitive stress and excessive tension on the tissue, you can experience plantar fasciitis. Flip-flops require your feet and toes to work harder to keep the shoe on your foot, which can inflame the tissue.

A common effect of having plantar fasciitis is a heel spur, which can cause heel pain. A heel spur is a bony protrusion located at the underside of your heel bone. It forms because of strained foot ligaments and muscles, as well as stretching of the plantar fascia tissue.

To learn more about Plantar Fasciitis, please click here

Damage Your Toes

When you choose to wear flip-flops, your toes have to work differently compared to walking in supportive and form-fitting athletic shoes. If your toes undergo excessive bending to keep your flip-flops on, hammertoe can occur after an extended time. Hammertoe is when the knuckles on your toe permanently bend, causing you pain and stiffness that may require surgery. Hammertoe flip-flops are something you may want to avoid.

Open-toed footwear also increases the risk for stubbed toes, broken toes and torn nail beds. Your toes can suffer when you slip on a pair of flip-flops for every outing.

Treatment

If you’re someone who wears flip-flops more often than most, you may feel an occasional sense of pain or discomfort. Often, you can subdue any short-term irritations through self-care. The first step is to start wearing more supportive and protective footwear.

You can also place ice on different areas of your feet or body that feel sore, especially after walking a full day in flip-flops. If needed, you can take anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and soreness. If your pain is more localized in your foot region, you can concentrate on foot and heel stretching exercises.

For example, roll the bottom of your foot on a tennis ball to massage and stretch your tissues and ligaments. Even filling a water bottle with water and freezing it can help ease the discomfort. Moving your foot over a cold surface will help with swelling, while also stretching your muscles. People with plantar fasciitis most often use this technique, but it can support you in various ways.

Appointments

If you’re experiencing lingering and persistent pain in your feet, toes, arch or heels, you will want to seek advice from an orthopedic surgeon.

Call us at 404-255-5595 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Spiegl, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle injuries.

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