The High Price of Summer Fashion
by Doug Rempe, MPT, M.Ed., ATC
9863 Montgomery Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45242
As the temps reach into the 70s more consistently, Cincinnatians will be digging into summer boxes to pull out one of the most prized parts of summer: our flip-flops. While I personally do not own a pair of these classic fashion items, I have considered every reasonable argument for them: they’re comfortable, easy to slip on, and provoke a sensation of relaxation and freedom. As comfortable, convenient, relaxing and freeing for your feet as they may be, as a physical therapist invested in the well-being of your feet and back, I’m compelled to share the flip side of flip-flops.
Wearing flip-flops for an extended period of time this summer will impact the way you walk and have a propensity to cause a plethora of problems, from the ankle through the low back. This is especially true if you have experienced foot or back problems in the past. Here’s why:
Because flip-flops do not provide heel support, people tend to turn their feet outward, shorten their stride length (ever tried running in flip flops?) and curl their toes as a way of avoiding kicking the sandal off while walking. The end result is that people swing their legs around more, hyper-extend the lower back and do not absorb forces through the knee or hip joint (designed to accommodate these forces). Instead, these forces are absorbed through the foot and back. This can cause medial ankle pain, medial knee pain, limited hip internal rotation and most importantly low back pain. Planter fasciitis can also be ignited by curling of the toes.
These are high prices to pay for sporting this summer fashion. As you slip your feet back into your favorite summer shoe, you may want to consider a progressive transition to wearing flip flops again after a winter of more supportive soles. If you experience low back or foot pain after a transition to wearing flip-flops, a change of footwear may be the first thing to consider. My passion is to help you enjoy a pain-free summer! Your footwear may play a part.