You see people of all ages wearing them everywhere you go, rain or shine in Seattle. They are a familiar and much-loved wardrobe staple, but did you know they place excess strain on your feet? “They’re the most comfortable shoe I own,” I often hear. Let’s examine flip-flops more closely.
When we walk, our feet should engage in a soft heel strike, rolling through the mid-foot, and toeing off, as our foot leaves the ground, and the next foot heel strikes, etc. This is the natural, healthy movement of the feet. What happens when you wear flip-flops?
Some people heel strike, others don’t. Rolling through the mid-foot decreases. Why? The toes and muscles around the balls of the feet tense up to hold onto the piece of plastic or fabric between the toes in order to keep the shoe on, preventing normal movement in the mid-foot. With clenching in the fore-foot, toeing-off cannot happen as nature intended. Cramping in the calf muscles can also as the tension moves up the lower legs.
The three stages of walking exercise the muscles of the feet and lower leg, as well as stimulating the reflex areas (the mini-maps of the whole body) of the feet. Flip-flops force the feet and lower leg muscles to stay tense and stiff, especially if worn frequently.
There’s no need to toss your flip-flops, they make great shower shoes for the gym or pool-side (who needs plantar warts?). Instead of flip-flops, there are a great many other healthy options for your feet: Look for a minimalist sandal that straps to your foot across the top, as well as across the back of the heel, that way it stays on your foot without any strain on your muscles. Make sure the sole is flexible so that it bends naturally with each step.
Test: hold the sandal with one hand holding the front of the shoe and the other hand holding around the heel. Try to bend the show upwards with some pressure, but not a huge amount of force. If it doesn’t flex easily, your foot muscles and joints will remain stiff with walking.