Submitted by Melissa J. Lockwood, DPM, Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates, P.C.
It’s easy to understand why we all love flip-flops: They’re cute and comfy, keep your feet cool in warm weather, and are great for showing off that fab pedicure you just got. No matter how much you adore your flip-flops, it’s important to remember they’re not always appropriate for everyday wear or for all occasions. Every spring and summer, podiatric offices see an influx of patients with injuries and ailments directly related to wearing flip-flops at the wrong time or wearing the wrong flip-flops altogether.
The secret to safely enjoying flip-flops through summer is two-fold. First, find the right style, and second, know when to wear flip-flops and when to wear something else.
How to choose flip-flops
Some styles of flip-flops may cause blistering and pain, and increase your risk of injury in certain situations, but there are many flip flops that are designed with foot health in mind — and they are very fashionable, you’d never know they are good for your feet. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) offers some tips:
- Look for high-quality, soft leather, which will minimize the risk of blisters and other skin irritations. Vinyl or rubber styles are more likely to rub your foot the wrong way.
- Choose a flip-flop with soles that bend at the ball of the foot. If you can bend the sole completely in half or wring it like a wet rag, the sole will not provide proper support.
- The thong part of the flip-flop should fit comfortably, neither too loose nor too snug. Straps that are too tight could rub and cause blisters. Too-loose straps may result in you losing the shoe at a critical moment — resulting in injury. Consider a flip-flop with extra padding on the part of the strap that fits between your toes.
- Your foot should fit perfectly on the sole. Your heel should not hang off the back, nor your toes off the front.
- Dispose of worn flip-flips, no matter how much you loved them last year. Old shoes lose their ability to support and protect your feet, and it’s easy to find a new pair to replace old ones.
- Look for footwear that has earned the APMA’s Seal of Acceptance. The seal indicates that a team of APMA podiatrists have evaluated the product to ensure it promotes normal foot function and health.
When to wear flip-flops
A shoe style that was once relegated to beach or poolside is now considered acceptable in a variety of settings. People wear flip-flops everywhere — the grocery store, a nice restaurant, church, or even at the office. Deciding whether wearing flip-flops are socially appropriate for the occasion is up to you, but there are some times when you should not wear them for safety reasons. Here are my top four:
- When walking in big-city (or maybe small city) streets, your feet are exposed to all kinds of germs, bacteria, fungi, and viruses that can not only cause irritation, but can lead to a serious infection. If you see that your feet are especially filthy, they are likely covered with some nasty bugs!
- When doing yard work, such as mowing the lawn or working in the garden, it’s best to wear shoes that cover and protect your entire foot.
- For long walks, opt for a good walking shoe. Even the sturdiest styles of flip-flops don’t offer sufficient arch support and shock absorption for extended walking.
- Playing sports calls for the right footwear. Flip-flops don’t offer protection for hard play, you can’t run very fast in flip-flops, and they may come off your foot at a crucial moment, causing a foot or ankle injury.
Use common sense so a flip-flop fail doesn’t ruin your summer of flip flop fun!
For more information on any foot or ankle issue, contact Dr. Melissa Lockwood at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates at 309-661-9975 or www.HeartlandFootAndAnkle.com. Browse their website to see the many styles of APMA approved sandals available for purchase Or, get a custom fit from a foot care specialist and order podiatry approved heels, wedges, and even flip flops!