Is wearing flip-flops bad for your back and feet?

Wearing flip-flops was once considered a false fashion move; a shoe reserved only for beachgoers or a quick walk to the mailbox on a hot summer day. In recent years, however, these shoes have become considerably more fashionable, if not perfectly acceptable footwear for lunch, dinner, or even a White House congressional meeting. In fact, flip flops have become so popular that many top designers, from J. Crew to Lands' End, are designing them for the masses. However, sports medicine and podiatry experts warn that wearing flip-flops could be bad for our bodies.

There are many reasons why wearing flip flops could be harmful to our bodies and the scientific studies are there to back it up. As a general rule, flip-flops are not particularly supportive shoes, even if they are comfortable and cool to wear. There is virtually no arch support in these shoes, and wearing them excessively can actually take a toll on your feet, legs, and lower back.

Also, by the sheer nature of the design, flip flops cause the wearer to change their gait. Because the shoe isn't exactly designed to fit the foot, it doesn't fit. In order to walk without losing a shoe, people unconsciously change the way they walk. Over a long period of time, excessive use of flip-flops can lead to foot, leg, and back pain.

The long-term effect of wearing flip-flops has been warned against, but some podiatrists also warn of short-term effects. Wearing them instead of more appropriate footwear for certain activities, especially when it comes to excessive walking, can lead to foot and ankle injuries. The stability of flip flops is lacking, making you more likely to slip, trip, fall, and subsequently sprain your ankle.

Without having to give up wearing flip flops altogether, experts recommend limiting their use. For activities that require walking or excessive activity, such as shopping or gardening, consider wearing a more appropriate shoe. When shopping for flip flops, avoid the poorer varieties that can easily twist in your hands. Instead, look for sandals that have a sturdier, thicker, well-made sole. There are also some varieties that are designed with foot health in mind. Although less fashionable, these flip flops offer some support and stability beyond the traditional flat-soled shoe.

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