It’s no surprise that summertime is many people’s favorite season.
With the ever-growing heat and sun exposure, our clothes get a little shorter and looser and our feet start to feel a little caged in by our socks and shoes.
Slipping on some flip-flops is one of the most pleasant and liberating wardrobe changes that comes with the change in season.
But, as it turns out, flip-flops aren’t good for your feet and ankles.
In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at Auburn University studied the effect of flip-flops versus sneakers on gait kinetics and kinematics.
If you think about it, what they found isn’t surprising; sneakers are closed and provide sole, arch, and whole-foot support while flip-flops give no foot support whatsoever.
They found that people who regularly wore flip-flops had a shorter stride and their ankles stood at an awkward angle as their foot left the ground with every step (1).
Over time and constant use, wearing flip-flops can cause foot, ankle, leg, and back pain due to the awkward stride they cause.
Furthermore, the foam-like materials used to make flip-flops become slick when damp.
If your feet sweat (it is summer, after all), your foot will slide on the sole and the thong that goes between the toes will rub against them and the tops and sides of your feet, causing blisters.
The footwear also causes your toes to scrunch with each step to keep a grip on the shoe and extensive wear can cause pain in the tendons of the foot and little piggies, too.
With the foot sliding around with no support, you are more likely to roll your feet and twist your ankles. Due to changes in gait and the unnatural angles forced onto your feet and ankles as you walk, flip-flops can strain the tendons in your ankles and muscles in your shins.
Because there is no side support and the pinky toes are exposed, often hanging a little off the edge, the little guys are prone to being bumped and stubbed, sometimes even dislocated. There’s nothing to be done for a broken toe but to wait for it to heal so it’s best to protect them in the first place.
If you often wear flip-flops and find your feet and legs are sore, the best thing to do is to get rid of the sandals and regularly stretch your feet.
Opting out of flip-flops doesn’t mean you have to close your feet up like it’s January—there are lots of supportive, fashionable sandals that will let your feet soak up the sunshine and allow you to feel the warm breezes between your toes.
Many are thong-style with a simple back strap to keep your feet from slipping around the base of the sandal. Look for sandals that move with your foot to avoid pain and blisters. Arch support is also important to prevent fatigue and strain. In terms of materials, leather and rubber soles are better than foam for absorbing joint impact.
Better yet, walk barefoot when you can.
Kick off your shoes and stand tall! Walking barefoot on natural surfaces like grass and sand doesn’t hurt. In fact, the more often you walk shoeless, the stronger your feet and ankles will become (2).
Going barefoot improve the ease of movement and flexibility of the feet, which in turn results in better blood circulation. It also provides better stability and balance.
As you begin to spend more time barefoot, your natural gait will emerge, (unimpeded by footwear) and the muscles of your back and abdomen will tone and strengthen.
Additionally, you are much less prone to slouching if you’re barefoot. Most shoes and sandals hold the feet in an unnatural position that your body attempts to correct by changing your posture.