Flip-flops are a summer wardrobe staple: they’re fun, they’re easy to slide on and they keep your feet cool in the heat. But flip-flops may actually be the worst shoes for your feet.
Podiatrists and foot experts agree that flip-flops are among the most dangerous shoes you can wear, since they offer little to no support and can potentially lead to serious foot, knee, hip and even back problems.
Wearing flip-flops regularly can lead to painful plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the tissue of the bottom of the foot), tendinitis (inflammation of the tendons of the foot) and even sprained ankles if you trip. Because flip-flops expose your feet and toes, you are at increased risk of stubbed toes or cuts or wounds from glass and debris on the ground. Your feet also have no protection from heavy objects that might fall when you're wearing flip-flops.
Research shows that when you walk in flip-flops, you actually alter your gait and scrunch up your toes to grip the sandal, which can lead to problems in your foot, hips and lower back. One study of 39 college-age men and women found that flip-flop wearers took shorter steps and their heels hit the ground with less vertical force than people who wore athletic shoes.
For individuals with diabetes, any injury to the foot can be especially dangerous and potentially lead to amputation of the toes or even part or all of the foot. Diabetics should always wear shoes that protect the foot and cover the toes.
Flip-flops should never be worn while doing yard work, hiking or even driving. If the shoe comes off while driving, it can become lodged under the brake or gas pedal, limiting your control of the vehicle. Worn while hiking, flip-flops expose your feet to snake bites and make slips and falls more likely. Reasons not to wear flip-flops while mowing the lawn should be self-explanatory, yet each year, emergency room physicians treat patients with minor to severe toe or foot injuries from mowers and other lawn care equipment.
If you suffer from foot pain, the American Podiatric Medical Association recommends wearing sandals that offer more support from brands such as Wolky, Chaco, Dansko and Rockport. If you’re looking for lightweight, waterproof shoes that offer some support and protection for your feet, consider clog-like shoes such as Crocs.
Like any shoe, flip-flops serve a purpose, but they’re best worn for short periods of time, such as after a sporting event, in public showers, around the swimming pool or at the beach. If you’re spending the day walking, leave your flip-flops at home and opt for a shoe that provides proper support for the foot and ankle.