That means out with bulky shoes and in with less-supportive flip-flops, sandals and clogs. Those people may be left feeling more footloose and fancy free, but they also may pay the price later.
Podiatrists have been warning patients for years about the harm they were doing to their feet and lower legs by wearing flimsy footwear. Warnings that were once based on anecdotes, though, now have more scientific evidence to support them.
At least one key researcher’s interest in studying the effects of wearing flip-flops and similar footwear was fueled by their growing popularity on college campuses.
“They’re not made to walk around in all day,” said Justin Shroyer, who was working on his graduate degree at Auburn University at the time. “They’re for wearing to the beach so you don’t have to walk on the hot blazing pavement between your car and the sand.”
Flip-flops significantly shortened their stride and how long their feet were in contact with the ground compared with sneakers. Further, flip-flops tended to reduce how much the top part of the swinging foot flicks up toward the shin.
Shroyer speculates that the shorter steps and lessened foot motion are consequences of the wearers’ efforts to keep the flip-flops on their feet as they walk. People tend to grip the base with their toes to keep their flip-flops from flip-flopping off. That downward exertion, however, conflicts with the foot’s propensity to rise at the front to shift the ground strike to the heel.
Shroyer thinks that tug-of-war puts extra pressure on the tibial anterior, the muscle at the front of the shin, and leads to the soreness that some attribute to long-term flip-flop wear
“If you had a normal workout in the winter and then went into the gym and worked overtime on the muscle, you’re going to be sore,” said Shroyer, who published the study in a 2010 edition of the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association.
Another problem is that flip-flops, sandals and their ilk offer little shock absorption. And many people continue to wear their flip-flops after the padding has been squashed.
Flat footwear can lead to foot fractures from repeated stress on the arch of the foot.
There’s at least one benefit of flip-flops: They help shield your feet from burning sand and pavement and from other hazards, such as germs on a shower floor, she said. She suggests choosing a flip-flop that bends only in the front, has lots of cushioning in the arch and isn’t so high that they pose a risk of slipping out of them to the side.
Summer holiday footwear tips
– Wear comfortable shoes to the airport. You never know how long you will wait in line, how far you will walk to the terminal, or if you will have to make a mad dash to make a connecting flight. Loose-fitting flip-flops and sandals increase your risk of tripping, falling and spraining your ankle.
– Avoid taking new shoes on vacation. They can be stiff and unforgiving. If you plan to dance the night away or do a lot of walking, wear shoes that will make your feet as happy as you are.
– Take flip-flops or sandals, particularly to avoid walking barefoot in locker rooms and around pools, where you may pick up athlete’s foot, a plantar wart infection or toenail fungus.
– Pack an antifungal cream or powder. If you’re staying in a hotel or using public pools, using an antifungal product can help prevent athlete’s foot.
– If you are traveling more than two hours, be sure to stretch your legs and pump your feet. This will help circulate the blood to prevent deep vein thrombosis or dangerous blood clots in the legs.
– Pack a small first-aid kit. Chances are you’ll develop a blister from that long walk through the shopping village or scrape your foot on a piece of coral at the beach. Clean your feet with saline (eye solution), apply a small amount of antibiotic cream and cover with a Band-Aid or gauze.