As the weather gets warmer, and your wardrobe changes, one thing needs to be addressed; footwear choice. For years, we’ve all been bulk buying cheap thong flip-flops at local retailers, and that’s perfectly acceptable if your goal is to save money. I’m asking you to think outside the box here; will you really be saving money if those cheap flip-flops force your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and lower back into painful movement adaptations? If the goal isn’t to save money but rather because they are convenient to slip on and off on your way to the pool, that’s fine, but please do your feet a favor and don’t wear them on your all-day excursion to the local amusement park. If your reasons behind choosing flip-flops don’t fall into one of those two categories, enlighten me. (As long as it doesn’t have anything to do with movie stars touting them as “the reason they got their life back”, because that’s maniacal malarkey).
What flip-flops do to your body is easy to overlook due to the subtle and insidious nature of how it all happens. When you’re barefoot, walking is easy, thoughtless, and minimally taxing on the body. This is because your feet can naturally travel through the stages of human gait in an efficient manner, avoiding overworked muscles or disadvantageous joint positions in the lower extremities. When a shoe is attached to your foot, keyword being ‘attached’, you can still maintain a relatively normal gait, but when you are wearing something not appropriately attached your foot, walking becomes inefficient and abnormal. During terminal stance phase, when your heel begins to lift off of the ground and you move towards toe-off, you subconsciously develop new movement patterns to keep something that isn’t attached to your foot, on your foot during the swing phase. Typically these new movement patterns can be categorized into either “gripping the sandal” or “supporting the sandal”.
Gripping the Sandal
“Gripping the sandal” is exactly how it sounds, you use your toes to essentially claw against the sandal, keeping it attached to your foot as you swing it forward towards initial landing phase. Doing this over the course of several thousand steps will definitely overwork the small muscles within the foot, which in turn can leave your feet laden with trigger points and miserably sore.
Supporting the Sandal
“Supporting the sandal” may be the more detrimental of the two new movement patterns, in that it forces structures above the foot to function much more differently. As your foot leaves the ground, the foot turns outwards to prevent the flip-flop from falling from beneath the pad of the foot. As the foot rotates outwards from the heel, the ankle everts, and causes pronation in the foot. These actions combine to force both the tibia (lower leg) and femur (upper leg) to rotate internally, turning the knees inward. As this movement pattern becomes reinforced over hundreds of thousands of steps during a typical summer of wearing flip-flops, structures above inevitably pay the price. Your ankles, knees, hips, and low back will be at the mercy of how long your muscles can support this new and severely inefficient way of walking.
The Bottom Line on Flip-Flops
The bottom line is this; when something hurts, always look backwards before proceeding with ways to treat it. Ibuprofen is okay for addressing the pain, but it does nothing to prevent what caused it from happening in the first place. If you just can’t live without flip-flops, at least minimize how often you wear them and be more mindful of the harm they can cause. Looking for alternatives? Either try a sandal that actually attaches to your foot or just go barefoot, that is unless you see the sign “no shirts, no shoes, no service”. If you’d like more information about your particular situation with sandals, or just your feet in general, visit Schedule a Plantar Foot Evaluation today!
Yours in Wellness,
Prevention over Treatment