Can wearing flip-flops cause foot problems?

Christopher Chiodo, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Planning to take a long walk? Need to get somewhere fast? You may want to leave your flip-flops in the dust, or at least wear them sparingly when you don't have much actual walking to do. Scientists from Auburn University in Alabama who studied the biomechanics of flip-flops proved something that anyone who has ever hobbled distances to the sound of slapping knows -- that they cause foot pain and they really aren't so easy to walk in. What most people don't realize, and the research shows, is that they affect the way you walk -- your walking gait -- and that can lead to pain in the leg, right on up through the hip and lower back. What's more, flip-flop-related foot injuries, such as arch problems, sprained ankles, and tendinitis, are on the rise, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).

The researchers evaluated 39 college-age men and women and divided them into two groups. One walked in flip-flops and the other wore athletic shoes. Researchers were able to measure vertical force of the feet, stride length, and leg angles. The people wearing flip-flops took shorter steps and walked with less vertical force than those wearing shoes. Those wearing flip-flops tended to grasp their toes and not raise their feet as much as the other group as they swung their legs forward, changes that affected ankle position and decreased stride length.

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