Be Firm with Your Flip-Flops: A Careful Balance Between Foot Health and Fashion
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Published on May 16, 2017

summer flip-flops

Be Firm with Your Flip-Flops: A Careful Balance Between Foot Health and Fashion

Among the many pleasures of spring and summer is that chance to slide your toes into the unrestricted feel of your favorite sandals, especially after a long winter in clunky boots.

This spring, as you return to the airy atmosphere of slip-on footwear, remember those shoes that offer no-to-low support can cause tendon strains and other ailments that can curtail your celebrations in the sun.

Those injuries are why doctors like Christine Wiarda, DPM, of Avera Medical Group Podiatry Yankton, stress the facts about your feet, ankles and footwear.

“Flip-flops, sandals – really any shoe without laces – can put extra stress on your feet because you use your toes to grip the shoe and that can aggravate muscles and tendons,” she said. “When you’re wearing nothing but sandals or flip-flops for too long, especially if you’re active, you can cause tendonitis, or irritation of these tendons. It can also affect your joint capsules and cause leg-muscle fatigue.”

How to Test Your Choices

Wiarda said testing shoes for support is pretty easy: just hold them by the toe and heel and squeeze.

“Any shoe, laces or not, that you can bend in half or twist quite a bit, is not going to offer your foot much support, and over time, especially with activity, that can lead to pain,” she said. “There are so many good choices, but sometimes our fashion sense will lead us to make poor choices for foot health.”

She’s not saying to “outlaw sandals.” She’s just reminding every woman to use common sense. Slip sandals off and choose a more supportive running or walking shoe if you’ve got a big Disney World or beach trip planned. Moderation, when it comes to support-free footwear, can save you from pain.

“There are some fun and fashionable shoes for summer that do offer support, so you have to be a picky shopper,” said Wiarda. “Almost every style or brand offers you choices that give more support. They can protect you from straining muscles and tendons.”

The twist test for firmness can always be used to check any shoe. Wiarda said the popular clog-style “Crocs” are among those that vary from firm-soled and supportive to not so much.

“Shoes that have a back-strap to hold the shoe above your heel can help avoid strain. But we see a lot of people who wear them without the strap, and when you do that, you’re making those muscles in your feet work more,” she said. “It’s sometimes better to just focus on foot health instead of fashion. If you have sore feet or ankles, you’ll be less active. That’s not any fun when the weather’s nice.”

Consider Activity and Your Footwear

Spring and summer bring more activities – vacations, concerts and festivals – that may have you on your feet for long periods. From heel pain to plantar fasciitis, many troubles of the foot start with the shoe.

“We remind patients with foot pain to avoid re-aggravation. Sometimes people are ‘good’ about support all day, then come home and walk barefoot or in flip-flops and the pain returns. Support is key – all day long,” Wiarda said. “If pain is making the fun summer months unpleasant, evaluate your shoe choices and if you need to – come get some help from us.”

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