Can daily use of flip-flops cause foot problems?

As your heels hit the ground with more force when there's nothing but a measly piece of foam separating your foot from the ground, walking in flip-flops accentuates the heel-strike impact, which could end up causing pain, especially if you stand or walk in them for extended periods of time

Can daily use of flip-flops cause foot problems?

Their history dates to ancient Egypt. They became popular in the United States after World War II when servicemen brought the Japanese versions home as souvenirs. The Dalai Lama frequently wears them. And many people today consider them an essential accessory of summer.

But the simple sandals known as flip-flops simply aren’t a good fit for every situation.

“While flip-flops are perfectly fine – and far better than going barefoot – in a number of settings, they do have some drawbacks,” said Christina S. Long, DPM, a podiatrist and instructor in orthopaedic services at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “They really don’t offer too much support or protection. Wearing them too often or for certain intensive activities can lead to a variety of foot problems.”

Flip-flop wearers can take steps to avoid most of those problems by following these recommendations from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA):

  • Shop for flip-flops made of high-quality soft leather. Leather minimizes the potential for blisters and other types of irritation.
  • Gently bend the flip-flop from end to end, ensuring it bends at the ball of the foot. Shoes of any kind should never fold in half. Do not choose shoes that are too flimsy.
  • Make sure that your foot doesn’t hang off of the edge of the flip-flop. A good shoe fit is vital to healthy feet.
  • Wear a sturdy pair of flip-flops when walking around a public pool, at the beach, in hotel rooms and in locker room areas.
  • Don’t wear the same pair of flip-flops year after year. If they show signs of severe wear, discard them.
  • Don’t ignore irritation between toes, where the toe thong fits. This can lead to blisters and possible infections.
  • Don’t wear flip-flops while walking long distances. Even the sturdiest flip-flops offer little in terms of shock absorption and arch support.
  • Don’t play sports in flip-flops. This can lead to twisting of the foot or ankle, as well as sprains and breaks.

“I specialize in foot and ankle medicine and surgery, and prevention is a big part of my practice,” Long said. “When it comes to flip-flops, all it really takes is a little common sense to avoid injuries.”

Speaking about the use of flip-flops, Dr Pradip Bhosale, an Orthopaedic and Joint Replacement surgeon from Nanavati Hospital said, “Nowadays, flip-flops are worn as a fashion statement and for the comfort they offer. But, they can have downside too. Slippers do not offer any support to toes. They do not offer a grip at the back and this can cause heel pain due to friction. Not wearing the right-sized flip-flop can lead to stress in the nerves and hurt your legs.”

Osteoporosis surgeon Dr Shailendra Patil said, “Direct use of slippers cannot injure the foot nerves. Walking for excessive periods of time can cause foot pain. But using slippers does not make the legs hurt. So it is difficult to tell exactly why the pain is caused.”

Problems of wearing slippers

Can cause pain in your legs

May lead to foot infections

Back pain

Toe swelling

Can cause damage to the nerves of the legs