A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Is it OK to wear flip-flops?

pairs of flip flops beside a pool

This post submitted on behalf of  Dr. Kerry Dernbach, D.P.M., a Marshfield Clinic podiatrist.

Politicians accuse their opponents of flip-flopping on issues but there is no debate about flip-flops. These low-ball sandals are not good for your feet.

Stop wearing them, with few exceptions.

I’m certainly not alone on this. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons blames regular wearing of flip-flops for an increase in heel pain in people ages 15-25, a group that normally doesn’t have this issue.

Flip-flop foot injuries

I see many patients who have foot pain from constantly wearing flip-flops. They suffer from overuse injuries of the foot, causing pain that extends from the heel and arch and often all the way to the back and hip.

I can treat most of these problems with adequate supports, rest and/or anti-inflammatory medications and I advise these patients to wean their way off flip-flops and wear footwear with more arch support and cushioning.

The most common serious problems I see related to flip-flops are tendonitis; plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammatory condition of the foot; and stress fractures.

Fashion vs. function

Flip-flops give no support to the bottom of your foot, so they can twist and turn in different directions, leading to sprains, breaks and falls. Those thin, flat soles that look so cool have virtually no shock-absorbing qualities. They also are a main cause of foot blisters, sores and fungal infections from the strap rubbing between the toes.

Flip-flops are fine for walking by the pool, beach or on warm surfaces which is the sandal’s original use, and in public showers to prevent athlete’s foot and plantar warts. Just don’t wear them for long periods or for working out.

Fashionable brands of sandals are available, like Keen, Clarks and Merrell. Though they may be more expensive than flip-flops, they may save you from foot pain and even greater expense in the future.

Dr. Dernbach is a podiatrist and podiatric surgeon at Marshfield Clinic. Podiatrists treat a spectrum of conditions involving the foot and ankle. Podiatrists are available at Marshfield Clinic locations in Colby, Eau Claire, Ladysmith, Marshfield, Minocqua, Park Falls, Rice Lake, Stevens Point, Wausau, Weston and Wisconsin Rapids.

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