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Is Wearing Flip Flops Bad for Your Back and Feet?

By J. Beam
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Wearing flip flops was once considered a fashion faux pas; a shoe reserved only for beach goers or a quick stroll to the mailbox on a hot summer day. However, in recent years, these shoes have become considerably more fashion forward, if not perfectly acceptable footwear for lunch, a dinner date, or even a congressional meeting at the White House. In fact, flip flops have become so popular that many major designers from J. Crew to Lands’ End are designing them for the masses. However, sports medicine and podiatry experts are warning that wearing flip flops could be bad for our bodies.

There are many reasons why wearing flip flops could be harmful to our bodies and the scientific studies are there to back it up. As a rule, flip flops are not particularly supportive shoes even if they are comfortable and cool to wear. There is virtually no arch support to these shoes and wearing them excessively can in fact impact the feet, legs, and lower back.

Further, by sheer nature of design, flip flops cause the wearer to change his or her gait. Because the shoe isn’t exactly designed to conform to the foot, it doesn’t stay on well. In order to walk without losing a shoe, people subconsciously change the way they walk. Over a long period of time, excessive wearing of flip flops could lead to foot, leg and back pain.

The long-term effect of wearing flip flops has been cautioned against, but some podiatrists also warn of short-term effects. Wearing them instead of more appropriate footwear for certain activities, especially when excessive walking is involved, can lead to injured feet and ankles. The stability of flip flops is lacking, making it more likely to slip, trip, fall and subsequently twist an ankle.

Without having to give up wearing flip flops entirely, experts recommend limiting their use. For activities that require excessive walking or activity, such as shopping or gardening, consider wearing a more appropriate shoe. When shopping for flip flops, avoid the poorest made varieties that can easily twist in your hands. Instead, look for sandals that have a sturdier, thicker, well made sole. There are a also a few varieties that are designed with foot health in mind. Though less fashionable, these flip flops offer some support and stability beyond the traditional flat-soled shoe.

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Discussion Comments

By browncoat — On Jun 08, 2011

There are other alternatives to flip flops if you are worried about your back.

Sandles in particular have many types available that are designed to provide arch support and since they have straps as well, they don't have the same problem of people changing the way they walk to keep the shoe on.

If you buy a high quality kind of sandle they last for a very long time. In fact the companies the make the best ones give them a lifetime guarantee and will put the straps back on the sandle if they break.

On the other hand, flip flops are so easy to wear, and take off you might spend more time bare foot on the beach or grass, and that's supposed to be better for you than any kind of shoe, so maybe it balances out.

By lluviaporos — On Jun 07, 2011

I think you can easily find flip flops that are much better for your health. There are all kinds of flip flops that are even billed to improve your health. They have special soles that can massage or foot, or use materials like memory foam to make it more comfortable.

I personally wear flip flops a lot during the summer and I find that even the cheap ones seem to wear into the shape of my foot quite quickly and become comfortable.

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