Expert Advice

Are flip-flops bad for your feet?

Although nothing says summer like breaking out your flip-flops, findings suggest wearing them regularly can cause foot pain later in life.
Are flip-flops bad for your feet?
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Although nothing says summer like breaking out your flip-flops, findings suggest wearing them regularly can cause foot pain later in life. That’s because flip-flops can change the biomechanics of your foot. When you wear them, you have to scrunch your toes and rock in an awkward side-to-side motion, starting with your heel then moving to the outside of your foot and onto the big toe. This can cause stress to your ankles, shins, knees and hips. Early warning signs of injury are pain in the middle of the shin or in the back of the heel.

According to Derek Ochiai, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine expert in Arlington, Va., flip-flops should be strictly for the beach or pool. Problems arise when people who live in warmer climates wear them daily and even play sports in them. “Playing soccer or running for a bus in them is a no-no,” says Ochiai, who has seen many broken ankles caused by flip-flops.

Find the right sandals You want your shoes to enable your feet to stay relaxed while you walk, says David Murphy, a structural integration practitioner in New York City. Styles with a strap that fits snugly across the top of your foot can encourage your toes to lengthen with each step, rather than scrunch up, says Murphy.

Walk this way When you walk, start by standing over the center of each foot with your weight distributed evenly over all four “corners”— big toe, little toe and both sides of each heel. When you step, you should land close to the center of your foot instead of coming down hard on your heel. Your footsteps should be almost silent on a hardwood floor.