5 Reasons to Keep your Flip Flops in the Closet this Summer
Avoid wearing Flip Flops to Prevent Foot & Leg Pain this Summer: Calgary Chiropractor Dr. Elaine Screaton
With summer temperatures heating up Calgary recently more people have been letting their feet ‘breathe’ by increasing their wear of flip flops. Now, I will preface this by saying, I do wear flip flops, and won’t ask anyone to give up their beloved summer footwear, however we need to recognize that every piece of footwear has its place. Flip Flops are PERFECT to walk short distances to the pool, wandering around a locker room or pool deck, even walking from the car to the beach.
Flip Flops are NOT intended for the following: Long walks on the beach, Running, Long walks along the bow river parkway, long walks through Bowness Park, a day filled of running errands, a day at the Stampede Grounds, a walk with your dog, a day at the shopping mall (by this point I hope you are aware of a theme- they aren’t designed to be worn for long distances!) A good friend of mine is notorious for doing almost all of the above while wearing her favourite $2 pair of flip flops from Wal-Mart– and nothing against Wal-Mart, but if you MUST wear flip flops at least splurge on a pair that has a relatively thick footbed for some extra cushioning!
Here are a few reasons keeping your flip-flops in your closet this summer might help keep your feet and legs feeling healthy and pain-free this summer.
Your Gait Changes in Flip-Flops:
This probably shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, since nearly all of us have experienced this phenomenon. Compared to wearing running shoes, your stride length is decreased while walking in flip flops, your stance time is less, and your foot tends to contact the ground while walking with what we call less dorsiflexion (basically your toes aren’t as pointed to the sky as you would be wearing running shoes). And while you might not care that your gait changes while wearing flip flops, you might care that it is these changes that can lead to foot and lower limb pain with extended wear.
Increased Ground Reaction Forces:
Essentially, due to the lack of cushioning the flip flop provides, more force from your heel hitting the ground goes up into your foot, leg, hip and spine (aka there is less shock absorption!) It should be no surprise that less shock absorption by the foot means more forces going into the body, and these extra forces mean our muscles must work harder to try and dampen them (this means that your muscles can be overworked-predisposing you to conditions like plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, and overuse injuries of the muscles surrounding the ankle).
Increased Propulsive Force is Required:
Due to the overall flatness of a flip flop (compared to a running shoe that tends to have the heel slightly higher off the ground than the toe), your muscles must work harder to help push your toe off while walking. Because of the gradual slant of running shoes and dress shoes, this allows for an almost ‘rocker’ type motion, and uses momentum to help toe off. With flip flops, this lack of decline from heel to toe means your muscles are making up for it- and often times being over-worked! This can contribute to any arch pain or deep calf pain, because it is these muscles that are working double duty- and also explains why often your toes ‘grip’ the sandal!
Increased use of Tibialis Anterior:
This muscles lies right along the front of the shin. Because of the ‘flatter’ position the foot contacts the ground at, this muscle is working overtime in an an eccentric manner (a type of muscle contraction where the muscle is lengthening at the time of contraction- coincidentally this type of contraction puts the most stress on a muscle because of the lengthening nature). While this muscle is designed to perform this action, it is not designed to do this so frequently, nor is it designed to do so with so much tension along it. This combination=Hello Shin Splints!
Increased use of Hip Flexors: This is thought to be an attempt to make up for the flat contact of the foot on the ground. Again, these if used more than necessary can lead to these (already overworked from all the sitting we do!) muscles becoming sore and exacerbating hip pain or hip stiffness.
Like I mentioned before, I’m not saying NEVER wear flip flops, I am just recommending you wear them for the intended, short-term use, if you are hoping to keep your feet and legs pain-free this summer! And, if you still have the urge to wear sandals, finding a great, supportive pair is your best bet- Birkenstocks (while pricey) provide fabulous support for the foot, while enabling that breezy sandal you’ve been searching for!
2.Zhang, X., Paquette, M. R., & Zhang, S. (2013). A comparison of gait biomechanics of flip-flops, sandals, barefoot and shoes. Journal of Foot and Ankle Research J Foot Ankle Res, 6(1), 45. doi:10.1186/1757-1146-6-45