Foot pain, heel pain, hip pain… who knew summer exercise could cause so much pain? And all because of those inexpensive, easy-to-wear and ubiquitous sandals – the flip-flop.
“They’re great for wearing round the house or pool,” says Dr Ina Diener, president of the South African Society of Physiotherapy (SASP). “But try not to wear them while walking long distances or over long periods, as they can cause muscle pains.”
• Flip-flops change how you use your foot – to keep them on you have to scrunch your toes up to grip the shoe. This equals stress on the shins, the long bones of the foot and the heels, as well as in the hips and low back muscles. When you go for a long hike, rather use shoes that support your feet well.
• Flip-flops change your gait, research shows: you take shorter steps and your feet strike the ground differently, with rotation of the lower leg. So walking long distances in them equals stress on the arch, heel, legs, hip and lower back. Pain can occur from the foot up into the hips, and even stiffness and pain in the low back region.
• Flip-flops offer no foot and ankle support. This increases the risk of slips, trips and falls. They have little in the way of cushioning, so avoid running and walking on the coastal rocks in flip-flops.
• For walking or wearing over long periods, opt for more supportive footwear, such as sports sandals or sandals with a non-slip sole, a slight cushioning heel and ankle support.