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Flip-flop folly

With more than 200 million pairs sold each year in the United States, flip-flops are comfortable, easy to slip on and off and inexpensive; however, they were never meant to be worn all day, every day and for all occasions. They are fine for going to the beach, using a public shower or walking down to the mailbox, but excessive wear can lead to a number of problems.  

Your foot and ankle are composed of more than 25 bones, 33 joints and hundreds of tendons, ligaments and muscles. You exert two to three times your body weight on each foot with every step. A supportive, fitted shoe can help protect your feet through your daily activities. The flip-flop, which is traditionally made of rubber, foam or plastic, is not such a shoe.   

Problems arise from wearing flip-flops excessively for a number of reasons. First, because the flip-flop is loosely attached to your foot, it doesn't stay on your foot very well. This loose fit can lead to blisters. It can also lead to slipping, tripping and falling. Second, the flip flop is not protective. Stubbed toes, injuries from rocks, broken glass and other ground debris are common. In addition, the lack of protection can expose your feet to sunburn, putting you at risk for skin cancer.  

Third, flips-flops also change how you walk, which can create long-term issues for your feet and your posture. While walking in flip-flops, you have to grip with your toes and place more weight on the balls of your feet to keep the sandals from sliding off. This can increase your risk of injuries to your toes, such as hammertoe, a condition where you can no longer straighten your toe. The change in gait can also affect your posture and lead to back and hip pain.  

Fourth, the lack of arch support and shock absorption can lead to overuse injuries, such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints or tendonitis. It can aggravate other foot problems, too, such as bunions, flat feet or arthritis.  

You can avoid many of these problems if you follow these steps: 

  • Wear your flip-flops in moderation.
  • Buy flip-flops that fit your foot—your foot should not hang over the end.
  • Pay more for higher quality material, such as leather.
  • Look for a sandal with a heel strap and arch support.
  • Wear sunscreen on your feet.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

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