Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Throwing on a pair of flip-flops is an integral part of summer for many people in Minnesota. Flip-flops may be throwing off your stride and causing pain in your legs and feet. Wearing flip-flops can not only cause dysfunctional changes and pain in your foot, these changes can resonate all the way up to your head, neck and jaw causing headaches and neck pain; reported in an article published in the June 2008 USA Today by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Researchers at Auburn University in Alabama recruited 39 college-age men and women, and measured how the participants walked on a special platform wearing thong flip-flops. On another day, the same participants walked across the platform wearing their own athletic shoes.

When the participants wore flip-flops, they took shorter strides and their heels hit the ground with less vertical force. When walking in flip-flops, they apparently alter their gait, which explains why lower leg and foot problems can occur in people who wear such shoes frequently.

Let me explain how this happens. Your toes try to grip into bottom of the flip-flop to hold them on your feet. Look at your toes in flip-flops. The distal part of your toe is trying to flex down (planter flex) to hold the flip-flop on, while the other part of your toe (middle) is trying to bridge up (dorsi flex). This is the opposite of what your toes should be doing at that time. This improper toe action shortens natural stride, prevents the natural “locking” of your foot and forces your hip and leg musculature to work harder, forcing some muscles to shut down.

Due to this unnatural gait, wearing flip-flops over time will increase chances of bunion formation and hammer toes. This is definitely a problem I see come into my office more in late spring and summer because our weather allows for about 4 months of flip-flop wearing.

Wearing flip-flips around the house, in the backyard, on the beach, and around the pool is fine, but running errands where you are on your feet for long periods of time should be avoided with flip-flops, especially if there is physical activity involved. This is extremely important in kids where they are still developing and establishing their gait patterns.

Going barefoot is a good idea where possible (ie. in the home, backyard). Walking barefoot strengthens foot muscles and increases proprioception. This stabilizes the foot and increases strength in the ankle, knees, and hips. Thus, this improves balance and coordination.

So walking barefoot could be an easy way to contribute to your overall health.

If you would like to learn more about ways to keep your family healthy, you are invited to stop by our office or give us a call at 952-758-8760. We will be very happy to answer any questions you may have.

Watching your Back,

Dr. Heather

1 comment:

  1. I knew there was a reason why I don't wear flip flops;) Great read!!