Your feet do a lot for you… Treat them well!

As temperatures start to rise and Californians start heading for the beach, parks and other outdoor venues, the presence of flip flops and other summer sandals start becoming more and more noticeable. Even knowing the damage that this footwear choice brings, they remain a popular summer choice.

Research has shown that wearing flip-flops occasionally can be okay and may limit any potential damage the feet may receive. But if you regularly walk for long distances, it is best to wear a sandal that has a strap on the back to help keep the shoe on the foot. 

Why Do Flip Flops Hurt My Feet

Flip-flops offer no arch support, heel cushioning, or shock absorption. Flip flops require the wearer to clench their toes to keep the shoe on the foot, gradually changing the way you walk. The muscles in the feet and calves may be affected, and this can lead to having sharp pains in the heel. Repeated wearing can lead to overuse of tendons and muscles – not only in your feet, but also in hips, ankles, knees and back. 

Thong-style flip-flops can result in problems and pain from the foot up into the hips and lower back since people alter their gait when walking in flip-flops. They take shorter steps, possibly because they have to grip the flip-flops with their toes, and their heels hit the ground with more force because there is no cushioning in most flip-flops.

Types of Foot Problems

Continuous wear of flip flops can damage your feet. Not only is there a lack of support, but these shoes can be a cause of various issues with your heels and feet. Heel pain from wearing flip flops can happen over time. You may notice the pain in your heels and feet after resting and often in the morning. The pain may be improved with activity but increases after rest. Wearing flip flops can cause the following foot problems:

  • Plantar Fasciitis

This condition causes pain in the heels of your feet. It is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia that connects the heel bone to the toes. When wearing flip flops, you may have a stabbing pain in your heel or stiffness.

  • Achilles Tendonitis

This condition is caused when the tendon that attaches the heel bone to the heel becomes inflamed, which leads to heel pain. The instability of the flip flop design can cause this pain. If not treated, Achilles tendonitis can lead to tears in the muscles of your feet.  

Look For This When Buying Shoes

Flip-flops make your feet work twice as hard because your toes are trying to keep your shoes from sliding off. If you have collected a closet full of flip flops, you can still wear them but with caution. Choose to wear these shoes for short periods of time. If you absolutely cannot forgo wearing flip flops, you can find styles that are designed with extra support, cushioning and thicker straps.

When looking for summer shoes, choose ones with features such as:

  • Correct size
  • Thick sole
  • Supportive arch
  • Secure straps/back strap
  • Strong material

Types of Summer Shoes

  • Sandals and Flip-Flops

These are infamously known for being tough on your feet, particularly if they are the thin, rubbery type that you might wear in a gym shower or on the beach. Flip-flops provide very little support but there are some flip-flops that have a cup in the heel and a little more substance for shock absorption, and those do offer more support.

A lot of patients with mild bunions prefer open summer shoes because they do not rub against the bunion. But if you have really large bunions, flip-flops can still be difficult. If possible, look for a sandal that has a strap around the ankle. This helps secure the shoe to your heel, which offers additional support. 

When to Wear Them: Sandals and flip-flops are best for short walks or sitting poolside. Avoid them for long-distance walking, particularly if you have arthritis in your feet. Thong flip-flops are best for slipping on and off quickly, such as at the pool or beach.

  • Clogs

These shoes typically cover the front of the foot while leaving the heel exposed. Some clogs feature straps while others do not. People with conditions like Achilles tendonitis can feel relief from heel pain while wearing clog because they do not rub against the painful bump on the heel. However, research has found that clogs can increase joint stress if you have arthritis in your knee. Overall, clogs have been shown to increase the loads on the knee joints by up to 15 percent compared to flat walking shoes, flip-flops and barefoot walking.

When to Wear Them: It may be best to skip clogs if you have knee arthritis. Otherwise, clogs are best for walking short distances or while sitting, such as outdoor dining. Avoid wearing them to walk for exercise or in areas with uneven terrain.

  • Espadrilles

These slip-on type shoes can vary widely in terms of support. Most espadrilles are very flimsy and the base has very little support. If you are wearing the type in which the base of the shoe is substantial and has arch support, then you may be getting the support you need.

How to tell? If you can bend the shoe easily, it may not provide the support one with more rigidity might. Shoes that are designed with arch support provide a better cushion for the entire outline of the foot. 

When to Wear Them: If you find supportive espadrilles, you can wear them for shopping or other light walking. Opt for more flexible espadrilles if you have knee arthritis.

  • Heels and Wedges

Although heels are widely considered harmful for foot health, they vary widely in terms of material and design. Heels made with high-quality leather may stretch and be more forgiving on your toes than those made with plastic. 

High heels are also a risk factor for bunions, because they often crowd your toes. Heels are rarely good for the feet or knees since they put too much load on the ball of the foot, and that can cause arthritis later or increase your arthritis pain now. 

However, if you do want to wear heels, you might want to consider wedges as they may offer more support than a standard heel. 

When to Wear Them: Heels are best saved for events with short walks or special occasions. Avoid wearing them on uneven terrain.

  • Sneakers

Athletic sneakers tend to offer the best support for your feet while you exercise, and you can now find a wide variety of athletic shoes customized for your foot shape and the activity you spend the most time doing. Some athletic shoes feature slightly curved soles that can gently move you through your gait, which reducing strain on your foot, ankle and toes as you walk.

You can also find casual sneakers with arch support and heel cushion, but beware that some may not have the same level of support for the foot as athletic sneakers. These casual sneakers may not be suitable for exercising or long walks.

When to Wear Them: Athletic sneakers can be used for exercising, longer walks, and navigating uneven terrains. 

Treatment for Foot and Heel Pain

Your doctor will often recommend these steps first:

  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Heel and foot stretching exercises
  • Night splints to wear while sleeping to stretch the foot
  • Resting as much as possible for at least a week
  • Wearing shoes with good support and cushions
  • Apply ice to affected area at least twice a day for 10 to 15 minutes

If these treatments do not work, your doctor may recommend wearing a boot cast for three to six weeks or custom-made shoe inserts.

Ask Your Doctor

Foot problems can lead to significant functional loss and disability. Depending on the severity of the injury, the loss may be temporary or permanent. Making good choices in your footwear now could reduce the risk of serious injury later in life.

To learn more about bone health or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, call us at 800-698-1280.

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