If you’re one of those people who wears flip-flops on a regular basis strictly out of convenience, you might be surprised to learn that your Havaianas aren’t benefitting your feet, like, whatsoever.
According to Dr. Miguel Cunha, who is a board-certified podiatric surgeon and founder of Gotham Footcare in NYC, wearing flip-flops can have negative long-term effects on your feet due to lack of support. Here’s what he had to say.
1. Are flip-flops bad for your feet?
Unfortunately, the answer is “yes,” simply because flip-flops put unnecessary strain on your joints, according to Dr. Cunha. “I typically advise my patients NOT to wear flip-flops for prolonged periods of time, as this particular shoe allows our foot to collapse affecting our gait and posture, which can lead to a tremendous amount of stress not only to the foot but to the rest of the body,” he said.
Dr. Cunha also explained the long-term effects of wearing flip-flops. “Our feet naturally pronate during the gait cycle. However, when we wear flip-flops, we pronate for a longer period of time, which then alters the biomechanics and distribution of pressure and weight across the foot,” he continued. “This imbalance may increase the progression of underlying foot deformities such as bunions and hammertoes and lead to painful conditions associated with excessive pronation such as arch/heel pain, shin splints/posterior tibial tendonitis and Achilles tendonitis. This imbalance can then translate upward affecting other parts of the body such as our knees and back.” Phew, and we thought they were just easy beach shoes.
2. What will happen if I continue wearing flip-flops?
You may experience no symptoms. However, Dr. Cunha warned that flip-flops can exacerbate three major foot issues:
- Hammer Toes: “Hammer toes are contractions of the toe caused by a muscular imbalance in the foot where the tendons on the bottom of the foot over power the tendons on the top of the foot. As the toes contract, they may become permanently bent in a flexed position. Because flip-flops do not have a backstrap, we must grip the shoe with our toes, further flexing and bending our toes.”
- Bunions: “A bunion is a biomechanical imbalance involving the great toe joint. It is often described as a bump on the side of the big toe. Bunions start when the big toe rotates sideways towards the second toe and the first metatarsal projects outward in the opposite direction producing the characteristic bump, which increases prominently over time. Flip-flops lack adequate support of the foot, which further agitates existing bunions.”
- Heel Pain/Plantar Fasciitis: “The plantar fascia is a shock-absorbing bowstring-like thick ligament that connects your heel to toes. When you walk in flip-flops, your arch collapses causing this bowstring to stretch out leading to the formation of micro tears in the ligament that can result in weakness, swelling and irritation of the plantar fascia. It may feel like a stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot when you get out of bed in the morning, after standing for prolonged periods of time, or when you stand up after sitting for a while.”
3. When is it OK to wear flip-flops?
According to Dr. Cunha, it all depends on the activity. This means that short-term wear is A-OK, just as long as you’re not doing strenuous work, like running or hiking.
“Flip-flops are only acceptable for short-term use, if they have at least some arch support, a cushioned sole and supportive strap,” he said. “These types of flip-flops are appropriate to wear at the beach, around swimming pools, in communal bathing facilities and locker rooms at the gym, or around the house.”
4. What should I wear instead?
Dr. Cunha revealed there are several alternatives, including a simple summer slide. “A good way to promote healthy feet but also stay cool include summer slide shoes because they provide more support and stability than a traditional flip-flop,” he explained. “Summer slide shoes have a thicker and ribbed sole, which provides greater traction and stability of the shoe to help minimize injuries.” We love this pair because it’s affordable and goes with just about anything.
He also mentioned that ankle support is another key element, adding, “Flip-flops aren’t as dangerous to your ankles as a high heel because the shoe is closer to the ground. However, I do advise my patients to select shoes with ankle straps, because no matter how high or low your shoe is, one misstep could cause you to sprain your ankle. Shoes that are secured on your foot with a strap offer support around the ankle and sides that hold the shoe steadily on your foot, reducing the risk of a sprain.” (Like these flats, which provide ample ankle support.)
Guess we’ll be revamping our summer shoe collection sooner rather than later.