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Wellness Matters: Flip Flops = Foot Flops

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The following weekly column is written and sponsored by Virginia Hospital Center, a proud member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network and one of America’s 100 Top Hospitals for the third year in a row.

Thwack-thwack, thwack-thwack.

Hear that sound? It’s flip flop season. The summertime staple with the distinctive soundtrack may be synonymous with laid-back fun, but the flimsy footwear is actually putting your body at risk. The more you wear the sandals, the greater those risks grow.

Flip-flops offer no ankle or arch support, heel cushioning or shock absorption – all of which cause problems in both the short and long term. Issues range from sore or injured feet to more serious health concerns such as stress fractures, joint pain and spinal injuries.

Feeble Footwear

With your feet unprotected and exposed, you’re susceptible to a host of trouble including stubbed or broken toes, blisters, cuts and scrapes, even bacterial infections. Poor arch support puts stress on your feet and ankles, which can lead to misalignment in other parts of the body. Lack of ankle support means one false step off the curb and you could find yourself with a painful sprain. Likewise, if you step on something sharp, it will easily puncture the thin piece of rubber between you and the ground.

Heel cushioning is critical to protect your feet. Without it, you risk pain when the ligaments are stretched too far or too tight. Severe overstretching can cause plantar fasciitis – painful inflammation of tissues on the bottom of the foot. Shock absorption protects more than just your feet. If the shock is not absorbed appropriately from the ground it gets transmitted to other parts of the body such as the legs, hips, knees and back. Over time, the simple act of wearing flip-flops could turn into painful spinal injuries.

Flip flops can even change the way you walk. Studies show you take shorter strides when wearing the sandals which causes your toes to curl too tightly. Long-term arch and heel pain can lead to bone spurs and even stress fractures of the metatarsals, the five long bones that reach out to the toes. 

Highway Hazards

You don’t have to be walking to be at risk. There’s growing evidence that flip flops make driving more dangerous. Every year, thousands of motorists report getting one stuck under a pedal, and research shows that they may be even more hazardous than high heels when it comes to braking effectively.

Prevention Tips

How do you prevent problems and still enjoy your summer friends? “You must support the arch to have a pain free foot so wear flip flops on a minimal basis during the summer season,” recommends Rudolph Anderson, Jr., DPM. Wear your flip flops for short periods of time and replace them frequently. If you want longer wear, shop for brands that offer arch support. Never wear flip flops while driving.

If you’re experiencing foot or ankle pain, don’t ignore it! Foot bone alignment guides body alignment, so pain that begins in the feet can move to other areas such as your legs, hips, knees and spine. Rudolph C. Anderson, Jr., DPM with the Virginia Hospital Center Physician Group – Podiatry can identify and correct small problems before they become big ones. Schedule an appointment today: 703.940.3810.

For more information about Foot & Ankle conditions and treatment options, please visit

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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