Now that we’re in the middle of summer, you’ve had time to show off those cute little feet and toes in the latest and brightest flip-flops.

The idea of slipping them on to run out the door to meet with friends, taking the kids to the park, floating the river, is one less thing to worry about. But are those cute flip-flops doing more harm than good?

Not all flip-flops are created equal and some are better than others. Like all good things, moderation is key. So just slipping them on to go to the pool most likely won’t do much harm, but if they’re your go-to shoe gear for the summer, your feet may pay the price come early fall.

Let’s talk about what happens when you slip on those bright colored thong sandals. Starting with the toes, with only a small piece of fabric holding the foot in place, your toes need to grip the sandal to keep it on. With the constant gripping of the toes, the muscles working those toes can lead to overuse which could trigger inflammation of the tendons and the nerves surrounding those tendons. Tendinitis can be painful and could result in tears or ruptures. With constant over-wearing, your summer sandals can also lead to hammertoe toes (contracture of the joint that causes your toes to bend abnormally) or make them worse. Your sandals may also even encourage bunion formation or make an existing bunion worse.

However, your toes aren’t the only ones to suffer. With your sandals not providing any shock absorption or cushioning, they can lead to stress fractures in your feet. Standing or walking too long in these thin, flat sandals can cause tiny cracks in your bones.

Heel pain or plantar fasciitis, is something we’ve either had before, or we’ve known a friend, relative, or family member that has suffered from this frustrating condition. Unfortunately, most flip-flops lack in support, particularly in the arch and the heel. This can cause the foot to over-pronate, or flatten out. When your foot flattens out as you walk, it stretches the thick band of tissue on the bottom of your foot that attaches to your heel leading to inflammation and the condition known as plantar fasciitis.

Last but not least, wearing flip-flops can affect your ankles. With the thong sandal not providing any support, it causes you to walk differently. You take shorter steps and hit your heel with less vertical force which can throw off your natural gait and trigger pain and problems throughout the body. This can lead to issues in your ankles, knees, hips and back.

But there’s good news! So before you throw those summer sandals away, here are some tips to see if yours live up to the safe standards.
Make sure they fit according to your size, the “one size all” motto is not something you want to follow. Ensure that your toes and heels are not hanging off the edge.

When you pick up your thong sandal and can bend it in half like a sandwich, it’s time to put it back on the rack. You’re looking for a sandal that has support with a bend in only in the ball of the foot. Along with the support, you want a sandal that has a thicker sole with some kind of arch support in order to prevent that stubborn heel pain from flaring up.

Before you walk away from the coral jeweled sandals, look to see if they have more of a thicker strap that goes across the foot and one around the heel in order to create good contact between the foot and sandal.

Not all materials are the best for our feet. Look for a sandal that is made of good quality soft leather to prevent painful blisters and calluses.

Last but not least, flip-flops wear out and should be replaced every year, especially if they’re showing signs of wear and tear.
Hopefully you have a few sandals that lived up to the standards, if not, it’s time to go shopping!

Sarah James DPM

For more information contact Dr. Sarah James, DPM, at Foot & Ankle Surgery of New Braunfels.