Smarter Ways to Wear Flip-Flops
There's nothing wrong with a thong — as long as you take the right precautions
Whether classic navy or hot pink and bejeweled, flip-flops are the most fun shoe, period. But wearing them all day, every day may lead to trips and falls — possibly landing you in the ER. Last year alone, of nearly 200,000 shoe-related injuries, more than 25,000 could be traced back to flip-flops, according the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s report on emergency room visits.
“You can twist, sprain or roll your ankle in flip-flops,” says Marlene Reid, DPM, a podiatrist in Chicago and a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). And wearing them when you need a shoe with support could set you up for muscular strain and tendon and muscle fatigue.
“A flip-flop habit might even contribute to hammertoe — a condition that causes the toe to bend downward permanently — because your toes are constantly clenching in order to hold the shoes on,” explains Reid.
Wearing flip-flops repeatedly, long-term, also may affect your posture and gait. “If the support from your shoe isn’t good, the muscles in your arches have to work harder. This means other structures may be strained, forcing your entire body to compensate,” says Ami Sheth, DPM, a podiatrist in Los Gatos, California and an APMA spokesperson.
Flip-flops are insubstantial by definition: besides offering little, if any, support, they have no sides, no top, no toe protection, no heel counter and no heel cup. But because they’re so open they’re the quintessential summer shoes. Instead of ditching your flip-flops, take these steps to wearing them safely.
Shell out for quality
You get what you pay for when it comes to $5 flip-flops, starting with sub-standard materials. “Materials that aren’t very sturdy tend to break down, resulting in an uneven, unstable shoe,” points out Sheth.
It’s better to shell out a bit more for flip-flops that offer more durable construction as well as some arch support and a deeper heel cup. “These kinds of modifications tend to be more expensive, which is why there are so many inexpensive flops on the market,” says Sheth. Check out the APMA’s link to an extensive list of flip-flops and sandals that have earned their seal of approval.
Don’t mix with motors
It’s one thing to grab flops in order to snip some flowers in the garden. It’s another to wield a Weedwacker or push a lawnmower while wearing them. The APMA warns never attempt yard work unless you’re wearing shoes that fully cover and protect your feet.
The same goes for sporting flops behind the wheel — they could become stuck under one of the pedals and cause an accident. “Flip-flops are also dangerous to wear on escalators, amusement park rides and while horseback riding,” says Reid.
Keep it clean
Especially when you first start wearing them, flip-flops can cause blisters to form — usually between the big and second toe where the thong of the shoe rests and rubs. A blister, especially if it opens, is a setup for infection. When you walk around in flip-flops, it’s practically like being barefoot: Your feet are exposed to dirt, bacteria, fungi and other icky things.
Even if you don’t develop blisters, the grime and germs your piggies collect are icky. “If it’s possible, I recommend washing your feet before coming into the house after wearing flip-flops,” says Reid.
Sheth agrees. “You just don’t know what you’ve been exposed to on the street, in the grass or from other people’s carpeting. Plus, washing your feet gives you a chance to check them over for bug bites, cuts or anything else that may be unusual.”
Use your head
You can wear flip-flops this season (at the beach, by the pool, to your neighbor’s BBQ), but be sensible about it. “Wearing them while walking around the mall may be fine until you realize your feet are seeing more mileage than you expected,” says Sheth. Save the flops for the beach, the pool or your next-door neighbor’s barbecue.