Why Flip-Flops Will Send You to the Chiropractor
Summer’s here, and that means it’s time to pull out the flip-flops, a summertime staple. But here’s the truth about flip-flops: while they are comfortable and easy to slip into, they are also bad for your feet – not to mention your posture, warns chiropractor Dr. Cynthia Boyd of Symmetry Health Center in Oakland and Alameda.
Flip-flops alter your gait
In fact, an Auburn University study found that wearing flip-flops alters your gait and shifts the way your hips move. That can lead to pain from the foot all the way up to the hips and lower back. You take shorter steps than normal, which means you’re more likely to trip and sprain an ankle. What’s more, because there’s nothing but a piece of foam separating your foot from the ground, your heels strike the ground with more force. Add the lack of an arch support and cushioning, and the result is pain and potentially tendonitis.
Flip-flops are fine if you’re using them at the pool or the beach – somewhere that you won’t be doing a lot of walking. But for sustained walking or even standing for a long time, a shoe with more stability is a better choice.
- You have to grip your feet to the shoe to keep it on. That means your toes have to work extra hard, which can lead to a variety of problems:
- Hammertoe (when the knuckles of your toes bend)
- Bunions, which are bumps at the big toe joint
- Metatarsalgia, an inflammation of the ball of the foot. That’s because you have to flex your toes down, driving the ball of your foot into the ground. Untreated, metatarsalgia can evolve into stress fractures of the metatarsal joints – and several weeks in a cast.
- Shin splints or repetitive strain injury
- Flip-flops put you at greater risk for stubbed or broken toes, glass cuts, puncture wounds, or having a heavy object smash your foot.
- Because they’re flat, flip-flops don’t bend like your foot does when you walk barefoot. That alters your biomechanics and affects posture.
- Flip-flops don’t provide the arch support you need to keep your knees, heels and back aligned. Making your joints compensate can cause overuse injuries all the way up the body, from Achilles tendonitis (injury to the tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone), heel pain, and pinched nerves in the back.
Chunky Isn’t Better
You might conclude that a chunky, cushy sole or a wedge style flip-flop is a healthier option. But there are problems with those styles, too. The cushy sole allows less toe cramping but encourages you to roll your feet inward as you walk. Once again, this shifts your gait and can lead to hip misalignment and lower back strain.
The wedge flip-flop is probably the worst choice. You have all the drawbacks of a standard flip-flop, along with the drawback of wearing heels. Heels can injure the hamstring and cause an abnormal, inward curvature of the lower spine.
Unwilling to give up your flip-flops? Invest in a pair with a stiffer sole, an arch and a rocker bottom, such as the Fit Flop brand. It’s also best to buy a new pair each year, so you don’t have to wear a pair that’s beaten-up.
Better yet, choose a sandal. A stiffer sole and straps that cross the foot will help distribute the pressure on your foot more evenly.
If you think your flip-flops might be causing aches and pains, consider a visit to Dr. Boyd at Symmetry Health Center. Dr. Boyd and her team are experts in Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP), a method of remodeling and realigning the spine to restore normal nerve flow. The team at Symmetry Health Center is among only a handful of Oakland, Alameda and East Bay chiropractors trained in CBP, the most research- and results-oriented corrective chiropractic technique.
Take advantage of our no-charge consultation to determine whether you or a loved one is a candidate for care at Symmetry Health Center. Call 510-769-0125 for our location in Alameda and 510-654-2207 to reach our Oakland/Berkeley office.