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Flip-Flop Dangers

Sure, they’re practical and comfortable, but flip-flops are a major health hazard.

 A top podiatrist explains the dangers of rubber soles. 

I have a health confession: Two doctors warned me that flip-flops should be avoided, and yet, I still own and wear them on docks, decks, and even when getting my kids off the bus. But—note to self—this summer, I am DONE.  I have a big birthday coming up and my health truly needs to take priority, which means I’m finally kicking my once-beloved rubber shoes to the curb. (Except if I am getting a pedicure and need open-toe-shoes for the salon. That’s the only exception!) 

Strain and Pain
“Flip-flops offer minimal arch support, which can lead to conditions such as plantar fasciitis by exerting excessive strain on the arch and heel,” explains Dr. Audey Nasser, a double-board certified podiatrist based in Gurnee, Illinois. “Their thin soles provide inadequate shock absorption, which increases the impact on your feet, knees, hips, and lower back.”
   According to Dr. Nasser, the flat, flexible soles of flip-flops also increase your risk of ankle sprains or falls. “Additionally, people tend to grip the footwear with their toes to keep them on, which can result in muscle imbalance and discomfort.” 
   The lack of heel support, combined with the need to grip with your toes to keep flip-flops ‘on,’ alters your natural gait, “causing an unstable walking pattern,” explains Dr. Nasser. “This instability can result in trips, falls, and other injuries, making flip-flops a risky choice for regular wear.”
   Plus, when flip-flops get wet, or you’re walking on a wet ground with them on, you can easily slip and fall.


Why arches are important
The foot arch is the curve that runs along the bottom of the foot, between the ball (the area underneath your toes) and the heel (bottom rear of the foot). It is made up of three arches forming a triangle, each consisting of ligaments, bones, and tendons.Dr. Nasser explains that shoe arches distribute body weight evenly across your feet, which reduces strain on them from toe to heel.
   “When selecting sandals, it’s important to look for a good, contoured fit that provides adequate arch support, ensuring proper foot alignment and pressure distribution,” says Dr. Nasser.  “Make sure your arches don’t appear to be ‘collapsing in’ while wearing the sandals.”


More warnings
Since flip-flops leave your feet very exposed, they’re more susceptible to trauma such as splinters, cuts, and scrapes. 
   “When these injuries occur on the feet, you may get infections, particularly if the infection is not properly cleaned and treated,” says Dr. Nasser. “Bacteria and other pathogens can enter through the broken skin.” 
   Plus, since flip-flops are so thin and don’t cover your whole foot, “their proximity to the ground exposes your feet to dirt, bacteria, and fungi, increasing the chances of infections such as athlete’s foot.” A flimsy flip-flop strap can also cause blisters. Ouch. 
   And yes, you absolutely can get sunburn on your feet in a pair of flip-flops—which is incredibly uncomfortable. 
Not to mention, you always want to prevent melanoma.
  “I always recommend patients apply some form of sunscreen when in the sun and any skin is exposed,” says Dr. Nasser. 
  Flip-flops can also trigger joint pain. 
  “With flip-flops, there is increased force on your joints to absorb more shock, which can cause damage to your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back,” explains Dr. Nasser. “Also, for individuals with flat feet, wearing flip-flops can elevate the risk of developing arthritis in the foot and ankle.”


The best kicks
In lieu of flip-flops, Dr. Nasser recommends footwear from brands like Birkenstock, Vionic, Hoka, orthofeet, and OluKai for adult women. 
  “These brands have some form of arch support, cushioning, and stability, while maintaining the casual comfort of sandals and flip-flops. They’re are a superior alternative to typical rubber flip-flops.” 


Flip-flop artwork…and recycling
Did you know flip-flops can be recycled and re-purposed? Instead of clogging landfills, oceans, and harming your physical body, consider having your flip-flops recycled. Or, support an organization that collects rubber shoes. 
    You can send your old flip-flops for recycling to Terracycle. ( Just order a Flip-Flop Zero Waste Box from the company, fill it up with your old rubber sandals, and ship the box back to Terracycle. It is that simple; and the box even comes with a pre-paid shipping label. 
  On amazon, you can buy stretchy bracelets in a variety of colors from the brand These stunning bracelets are made from flip-flops and handcrafted in Mali, West Africa. 

There’s also an organization that morphs flip-flops into works of art. Ocean Sole sells sculptures (in various sizes) made entirely from recycled flip-flops. They’re quite impressive! Buy a sculpture and support a good cause: On a yearly basis, Ocean Sole aims to upcycle one- million+ flip flops found washed up across beaches in Kenya. In turn, local artisans transform them into one-of-a-kind artwork. 
   While it’s not medically encouraged to wear flip-flops on a regular basis, it’s great to know all the flip-flops out in the world can be transformed into amazing accessories. In the meantime, enjoy shopping for your new sturdy sandals—with arches! 











By Rachel Sokol

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