Are Flip Flops Bad for Your Feet?

Are Flip Flops a Step in the Wrong Direction?

It's a favorite summer pastime: Heading to the beach in good ol' flip-flops.

Easy on the feet, airy and ideal for washing off excess sand, the spongy footwear are the perfect choice for relaxing and taking short strolls beneath the summer sun.

While flip-flops are tailor made for the beach, orthopaedic and podiatric experts caution against excessive use of these popular slip-ons. Most flip-flops offer little to nothing in terms of arch support, stability and shock absorption.

Two common foot problems related to overuse of flip-flops are:

  • Plantar-fasciitis
  • Metatarsalgia

Plantar fasciitis is an irritation and swelling of the thick ligament tissue on the bottom of the foot. The most common complaint is pain under the heel upon arising in the morning and when getting up from a seated position. By the end of the day, the pain may be replaced by a dull aching that improves with rest.

No single treatment works best for everyone with plantar fasciitis. Common treatments include calf stretching, use of a night splint, arch supports, anti-inflammatory medication, and avoiding prolonged standing and walking. More chronic conditions may respond to a steroid injection.

Metatarsalgia is a condition marked by pain and inflammation under the balls of your feet (the area between the arch and tips of your toes). Though not considered a serious condition, it can cause a nagging pain that worsens while walking. Well-cushioned shoes, a small pad on an insole to relieve pressure on the area, and limited walking can often slowly relieve symptoms.

These foot problems can be mild and intermittent to severe and chronic. If the pain becomes intense and it is difficult to walk normal, make sure you see a doctor.

Here are tips to prevent injuries when choosing summer footwear:

  • Whether buying flip-flops or other seasonal shoes, make sure you purchase at a store that specializes in selling footwear.

  • Select footwear that is supportive and has a relatively flat, well-cushioned base with some degree of arch support.

  • Avoid under-sizing or over-sizing any shoe including flip-flops as this will lead to blisters.

  • Do not walk long distances in flip-flops. They're designed for short trips.

  • If you've had them for longer than a year or two and they show some wear and tear, than it is time to replace them.

  • Of course, flip-flops are not designed for running or playing sports. Their loose fit, lack of stability and poor cushioning frequently results in foot and ankle sprains, tendinitis, and occasional fractures.

Updated June 6, 2016

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