If summertime means foot and ankle pain for those beach-minded, children-of-the-sun types, it's likely that those $5 flip-flops are the culprit.
The minimalist sandal is the warm-weather footwear of choice for millions across the U.S., but its weakness resides in its simplicity " the open-toed design and lack of proper ankle and arch support means it's really just a matter of time before problems develop.
Add the fact that many wear flip-flops on a daily basis or for extended periods of time, and they've suddenly become shuffling time bombs. OK, so it's not that drastic, but a study released from the American College of Sports Medicine earlier this year might prompt floppers to think twice before picking out shoes for the day.
"Flip-flops are very common, and this study began with the observation that most people appear to be wearing them beyond their structural limit," said Justin F. Shroyer, a graduate student at Alabama's Auburn University, in the study presented at the ACSM's annual meeting. "It's also apparent that individuals alter their gait while wearing flip-flops. Based on this, we expected to find that flip-flops may be a cause of pain in the leg or foot, and if so, would be counterproductive to alleviating that pain."
That should be obvious to most flip-flop wearers " after all, one wouldn't slap 'em on before going out to play football or running a few miles, but the grab 'n' go nature makes them hard to resist for the majority of outings. This can lead to a multitude of issues, including sprains, tendonitis and overpronation, which is an inward rolling of the feet.
PODIATRIST'S POINT OF VIEW
An Oklahoma City-based podiatrist said the flip-flop's structure doesn't lend itself to happy feet. Over time, he said, feet flatten out slightly and can cause joints to become less efficient. Combine this condition with a flimsy walking surface and there's potential for trouble.
"That's what we tend to see: a strain of the ligament on the bottom of the foot, called plantar fascia," said Dr. Darren Elenburg of the Edgewater Medical Center, 3705 N.W. 63rd. "When you walk on an uneven, squishy surface, rather than a firm surface that can actually control the foot, then you're providing the environment for the foot to become strained more easily."
Ginger Tucker, one of Elenburg's patients, wore flip-flops when she was younger, but said they're too problematic today.
"They just make my feet hurt," Tucker said. "They're flat and there's no support. They're fine if you're going someplace and you don't want to get your feet in, like a public shower. I bought four or five pair, all different colors, two years ago " they're still in the sack."
But don't toss those flops just yet " like all good things, they're likely fine, in moderation. Get into the habit of replacing them often.
If it's too hard to give the summer slides up, the American Podiatric Medical Association site contains a wealth of recommended shoe and sandal companies, several of which make hip flip-flop substitutes. They're often more expensive than the average pair of thongs, but the investment beats a flip-flop failure.
Alternative flip-flops might be tough to find locally, but with the wonder of the Internet, they're just a few days away from the front door. These are recommended by the American Podiatric Medical Association " the perfect excuse to flip those flops.
Chaco: Check out the men's and women's Flip sandals. They have the traditional flip-flop look and feel, but with much more support in a variety of colors, $30 to $65.
Mion: The pseudo-futuristic, sporty Slack Tide thong looks like a hybrid of the slide, climbing sandal and the ubiquitous Croc (which are also APMA-approved, by the way). Check out the Current and Pen Shell, too, $80 to $100 and up.
Wolky : When it comes to sandals, comfort should be a top concern, but that doesn't mean style has to be sacrificed. Wolky's Cleopatra, Samoa and men's Journey sandals offer the best of both worlds, from $100 to $150. "Jake Dalton