When Flip Flops Become a Pain in the Heel

Summer is finally here!! And so is flip flop season.

Every summer, we lose our supportive tennis shoes and boots with the cold weather and we dust off the flip flops. With the change in footwear, though, comes an increased risk of injury. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that nearly 25,000 people visited the ER last summer due to flip flop related injuries.

As Physical Therapists, we see a number of common problems with the change in seasons and footwear. This includes plantar fasciitis, bunion pain, tendonitis of the Achilles or other muscle in the lower leg, sprained ankles, and even increased lower back or hip pain.

WHY? Flip flops cause our feet to work over time. A cheap, generic pair of flip flops provides no arch support, heel cushion, or stability. Without arch support, our feet can flatten and over stretch the plantar fascia. Without heel cushion, there is nothing to absorb the shock when our foot hits the ground increasing the stress on the heel bone and muscles of the lower leg. Without stability, there is an increased risk of tripping and spraining an ankle.

Related: The Most Important Exercise You Can Do

So, are flip flops bad for you, then? No. Not if worn in moderation as beach or pool shoes. If worn daily, investing in a new pair that follows these guidelines is recommended…

  • Look for a thicker yet flexible bottom which will provide cushion for the heel and shock absorption.
  • Look for a built in arch support that will help stabilize the foot and prevent the arch from falling.
  • Look for thicker straps which will secure the flip flop to the foot to prevent tripping as well as decrease stress on the muscles to keep the sandal on while also trying to maintain balance. Thicker straps can also increase arch support.

If you are starting to notice foot pain take advantage of our free pain consultation at our Gorham, South Portland, and Portland clinics.

Related: Top Physical Therapist Approved Shoes


Segment By Mary Kroth-Brunet, PT

Blog By Catherine Rowan, DPT

Back in Motion Physical Therapy – Gorham, Maine

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