By Anna Sachse
Summertime and the living’s easy . . . but maybe not so easy on your feet. Cracked heels, sunburned toes, blisters and athlete’s foot are only a few of the more “minor” consequences of wearing everyone’s favorite summer sandal, the flip-flop. But how could I be dissing the flip-flop? This is SoCal where it’s summer all the time and flip-flops are simply part of the uniform—it doesn’t get cheaper and easier than a few bits of rubber cobbled together, perfect for kicking it on the beach, by the pool or at Spago.
Well, on the flip side of cheap and easy, there’s pain, a visit to the podiatrist and—maybe even—surgery. That’s right—things can get a whole lot worse than itchy, unattractive flippers when you wear flimsy flip-flops. We’re talking hammer toes, shin splints, chronic knee and lower-back pain, inflammation of your arches, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, posterior tibial (the tendon on the outside of the foot that runs up past the ankle) tendonitis and, Oh, so much more.
The problem is that most cheap, plastic footwear offers nothing in the way of support, stability and shock absorption. The result is that your feet will hurt in some way or another, and, as Socrates once said, “If you’re feet hurt, you hurt all over.”
Here are the 10 top tips regarding flip-flops from the fine foot folks at the American Podiatric Medical Association:
1. Do look for a flip-flop that is made of high-quality, soft leather or other natural fabrics. Unlike plastic or foam, these materials will minimize the potential for blisters and irritation.
2. Do look for flip-flops that have the APMA’s Seal of Acceptance, such as Chaco’s Flip Collection and Wolky’s Serenity. These and other brands you can find under the Recognized Products link on the APMA website, www.APMA.org, are shown to allow for the most normal foot function and promote foot health. Rest assured that there are plenty of flip-flop-style products out there that actually aren’t that bad—you just won’t find them at the 99 Cents Store.
3. Do gently bend the flip-flop from end to end, ensuring that it bends naturally at the ball of the foot. Shoes should never fold in half.
4. Do wear a sturdy pair of flip-flops when walking around a public pool, at the beach, in hotel rooms and in locker room areas. Walking barefoot can expose foot soles to plantar warts and athlete’s foot which is basically just nasty.
5. Do ensure that your foot doesn’t hang off of the edge of the flip-flop. Over-hang means you are exposing your flesh to further risk for cuts and scrapes, but it also means that your shoes don’t fit properly and thus any support that might actually be there isn’t being taken advantage of.
6. Don’t re-wear flip-flops year after year, even if you really love them because they are so worn in and comfortable. You actually want to discard them for precisely this reason; all the cushioning and support is pretty much shot.
7. Don’t ignore irritation between toes, where the toe thong fits—this can lead to blisters and worse.
8. Don’t wear flip-flops while walking long distances. Even the sturdiest flip-flop offers little in terms of shock absorption and arch support.
9. Don’t do yard work while wearing flip-flops—you need something that protects your feet from machinery, prickly plants and sticks and flying objects such as rocks.
10. Don’t ever play sports in flip-flops. And that includes Frisbee and beach volleyball. You can easily twist your foot or ankle, leading to sprains or breaks. Although you probably deserve it if you’re that stupid.
Have a happy, healthy summer!