Flip-Flops…great for the beach, NOT great for your feet!

Dr Michael Santamaria

Summer is just around the corner…although some would say Spring isn’t here yet! But as the warmer weather comes there is nothing better than a t-shirt and shorts with a pair of thongs – it’s hard to be stressed when you’re in a pair of thongs, am I right?

That first day when you release the shackles on your winter-proofed chariots of ambulation and slip on flip-flops – makes you want to walk all day. And so you do. And then you wake up the next day and you’re sore all through the feet and lower legs. Has this ever happened to you? Why is this?

Getting a grip of the issue

Thongs are only held to our feet by the one strap that usually inserts between the big toe and 2nd toe and then on the outsides of our toes. It’s a very loose fitting but we automatically want to keep the thong on so we almost subconsciously grip the thong by flexing our toes to make sure it doesn’t slip off, see the picture below. This is completely different to how we would walk if we were wearing shoes that fit snuggly onto our feet or if we were to walk barefoot.

A woman walks with flip flops in Washington, July 15, 2003. Flip-flops in the nation's capital typically mean politicians switching positions on an important issue like abortion or taxes, but not this summer. Instead, the flip-flop resonating in Washington and across the country is the snapping sound coming from women's feet as they adopt thong sandals as the comfortable shoes to wear to work, on a hot date or just to the grocery store. Picture taken July 15, 2003. NO RIGHTS CLEARANCES OR PERMISSIONS ARE REQUIRED FOR THIS IMAGE REUTERS/William Philpott/FEATURE-LIFE-FLIPFLOPS WP/HB - RTRTFB

This gripping doesn’t allow the foot to use all of its 33 joints, 28 bones and 16 muscles it requires to move through a gait cycle properly. All those joints, bones and muscles are designed to shock absorb, strengthen the arch and then propel us forward into the next cycle of walking. This gripping reflex really suffocates that. So we ask on other muscles through the lower leg to do more work and the weight-bearing on all the foot joints is muddled up and we get overloading in areas we are not designed to and pain results.

Now, I love wearing flip-flops just as much as the next person so I’m not here to scold you. I would urge you not to wear them, BUT if you are going to, here are two very simple pieces of advice:

  1. Take your thongs off as much as possible. If you’re just walking around the house or on the sand, and don’t need the protection from a hot pavement or sharp stones then take them off and allow the foot to perform it’s desired movements.
  2. If you’re walking around the shopping centre or at the local cricket, get up on your toes and do some calf raises. Get some of those joints up and moving, stretch and strengthen those arches, spread your toes, point your feet – you will feel a release in your foot and leg stiffness almost immediately. Do this regularly every 3-4 minutes.

So enjoy the beach, enjoy your foot freedom, but Elsternwick Osteo wants to see you pain-free through your holidays as well.

Posted on: November 10, 2016