Last month, shopping in Target was not the usual same ole same ole. Right in front of me, this flip flop-wearing woman totally ate it. I helped her stand up and she said she had “slipped” on the floor.
I saw the whole thing.
Unless she meant “tripped” when she said “slipped” and “the floor” was actually her flip flop, she lied like a rug. After I witnessed that little incident, I decided I would write a post on flip flops.
With summer in full swing, you see almost everybody sporting them. And why wouldn’t you?
No dealing with socks sliding down into your sneakers, no complicated strappiness to fuss with and no Toms to make your feet stink to high heaven. Simply slip your dogs into a comfy pair of “thongs” and off you go.
Unfortunately, convenience comes at a price.
Munch on this caca cobbler. According to the NHS (basically England’s department of health), over 200,000 people a year visit their doc for flip flop related injuries. And that’s just in England!
Before we dig in though, let me make sure we’re all on the same page. I’m not saying if you wear flip flops to the pool or run an errand every so often, that you should start saving for an entire foot reconstruction later on down the road.
This post is for the avid flip flop wearers. Spring hits and the flip flop is their go-to shoe till the first snowfall. OR the people who live in a warmer climate year round. Yeah, you!
Keep reading to see why flip flops may be one big summer health hazard!
1) Flip Flops Could Lead to Tootsie Trauma
More often than not, flip flops fail to offer much support in the arch area, causing problems such as plantar fasciitis, which is when the long ligament running along the bottom of your foot develops micro tears, the collagen breaks down and it becomes inflamed.
Anyone who’s had plantar fasciitis knows that it sucks a big butt cheek.
I’ve had to deal with plantar fasciitis several times and I felt the pain in my heel as well as my arch and it intensified when I was first up and moving around in the morning or when walking after I’d been sitting for awhile.
A long time ago, before I knew what the hell plantar fasciitis was, I managed to develop it in my left foot while I had a broken right foot and wouldn’t you know, I wasn’t lucky enough to be in a walking boot. I had a cast and crutches while living in a two story apartment by myself (Doing laundry and going to the grocery store were the worst…).
The pain had become so crazy, I would crawl to the bathroom after getting out of bed in the morning. Since my broken, casted foot was unable to bare any weight and absolutely no help to me whatsoever, I couldn’t make my way to the toilet in an upright position.
Did I mention plantar fasciitis sucked?
Once diagnosed though, it was relatively easy to get rid of. There are stretches out there that really do make a huge difference. (e.g. Hang your heels off the edge of a step for two minutes. Don’t forget to hold onto something to ensure your feet are totally relaxed and not trying to help you stay balanced. The stretch gets kinda intense toward the end of the time period, but you’ll find it helps a lot.)
And then there are the inserts. These little glorious beastlings are game changers.
When I had a particularly bad case a few years back, I was dancing for a company with worker’s comp, so I scored a sweet pair of custom made orthotic inserts that I still wear to this day! If insurance didn’t cover those suckers, they would’ve run me about $400-$500. That was the best freebie I ever received because I have had zero problems since.
Now, that does not mean that less expensive versions cannot achieve the same result though! Inserts can range from under $10 all the way up to several hundred dollar custom made orthotics. Keep in mind, I have heard many success stories from plantar fasciitis sufferers where they tried products purchased from any big box store, such as Dr. Scholl’s Heel Pain Relief Orthotics. And they are only $9.62 at Walmart! Wha whaaaat?!?
Or perhaps, a more supportive shoe is all you need. My dad had a pretty painful case of plantar fasciitis and, at first, bought the expensive, fancy schmancy orthotics.
Well, he got sick of moving them from his dress shoes to his sneakers, so he stopped, and his feet started hurting him again. A couple months later, he went to buy a GOOD pair of tennis shoes. Not the usual pair he finds in the clearance section at Sears Outlet, but a nice, supportive pair of New Balances!
Aside from those special orthotics, I don’t think his feet had ever felt such comfort. His heel pain vanished almost overnight.
And his feet lived happily ever after.
What I’m getting at is don’t feel you need to pull out the big guns right away until you have tried the less expensive alternatives.
You might be pleasantly surprised.
Now if you’ve been dealing with arch and/or heel pain due to plantar fasciitis for a long time and you just haven’t done anything to take care of it, you may be in for a lovely, lil bone spur. And guess what could be to blame?
Yup, your good ole flippity floppities. (Or any non supportive shoes, BUT we’re talking about flip flops right now, so just go with it!)
What exactly is a bone spur? Weeeell, according to WebMD, it’s a “bony growth” that develops on the side of a bone or in between joints, etc. The bone grows this nub in response to long-term “pressure, rubbing or stress” in that particular area. It’s the body’s way of trying to mend itself.
If you develop a bone spur due to plantar fasciitis, it would probably be a heel spur. As I mentioned earlier, plantar fasciitis occurs when the ligament running along the bottom of your foot and attaches to your heel, becomes tight and inflamed. When that happens, it starts pulling at the bottom of your heel. Over time, that repeated tugging on the heel can cause a bone spur to form.
Many times bone spurs don’t hurt. When people do experience pain though, the typical treatment is recommended: take anti-inflammatories such as naproxen (Aleve), icing it and resting when you can. Doctors also suggest finding a pair of shoes that have great arch support. When that bone spur is simply unbearable, doctors may give you a cortisone shot or sometimes they will just go on in and surgically remove it.
I’ve only covered a couple foot issues caused by flip flops. I didn’t even touch upon ankle and lower leg injuries such as achilles tendinitis or shin splints, and other foot problems like Morton’s Neuroma, which is sometimes described as a benign tumor of a nerve, but as Schwarzenegger says, “It’s not a tumor,” at all. It is a build up of tissue that surrounds a nerve leading to the toes.
2) My Aching Back
In addition to the lack of arch support, most flip flops don’t offer shock absorption or hardly any cushion for your heel, which can not only reek havoc on your tootsies, but other parts of your body as well. Foot issues often develop, but it’s not unlikely for issues to set up shop in the knees, hips or lower back as well.
When Justin Shroyer, a biomechanics doctoral student at Auburn University, shared his research at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, he found that people actually “alter their gait” while wearing flip flops, meaning people “begin to use their joints and muscles in a different way” and if you do that over and over again, you’re a prime candidate for an injury.
Even after folks start hurting, they’ll continue wearing the shoes (probably because they have no clue the pain is stemming from them!). When that happens, they begin compensating and then the pain can rise up into your knees, hips and lower back.
3) See You Next Fall
Have you ever tripped on your flip flop in public and then broke into a slow jog trying to cover up the fact that you tripped? Well, I have, but many times people wipe out, like that lady in Target, and can end up really hurting themselves.
That’s because flip flops increase the whole clumsiness factor (as though I needed any more help). When you wear flip flops, you more than likely squeeze your toes to keep the shoe from slipping off, causing you to take shorter strides, which up’s your chances of tripping over your own feet.
It’s also not uncommon for people to catch their flip flop on such things as an escalator or for that annoying person walking too close behind you to step on the heel of your flip flop and send you flying to the floor.
And last, but certainly not least, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it hurts worse when you drop crap on you foot while wearing a flip flip rather than a sneaker! Period. And if you wear your flip flops a lot, I’m sure you’ve experienced some random object falling or large foot stomping on your nearly bare foot.
Have you guys ever had an issue with your feet or a part of your body due to flip flops? I’d love to hear about it!
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