Shoe Care & Comfort

Are Flip-Flops and Sandals Good for Your Feet?

Once the warm weather kicks in, the flip-flops are out. And why not? They’re trendy, let your feet breathe and are easy to kick on and off.

For sure, flip-flops have their advantages. But experts caution that the lack of structural support in the design can also be problematic for your feet, heel, ankle, and knees.

Do you get a pain in your joints and the arch of your feet when you consistently wear flip-flops?

That’s not to say you should throw your flip-flops in the trash. Together with sandals, flip-flops still offer your feet some basic protection and are ideal for the beach, swimming pools and saunas.

In this guide, we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of wearing flip-flops. We also provide some noteworthy advice that will help you make the right choice of footwear to ensure your feet, legs and hips stay healthy as you get older.

What Are the Benefits of Wearing Flip-Flops and Sandals?

Flip-flops and sandals are a convenient and easy option for slipping in and out of during the summer months. The primary benefits are that they let air get to your feet and protect your feet from sharp objects on the beach.

You should also wear them in public swimming baths, changing rooms and saunas where nasty fungal infections are lurking.

Researchers at Northwestern University also found that flip-flops, together with other fashionable items, are good for mental health. The team termed the condition “enclothed cognition” due to the systematic influence clothes can have on your psyche.

When you wear flip-flops, your subconscious tells your brain that you can relax and have fun – because flip-flops are associated with holidays and your days off in the summertime. By putting on a pair of flip-flops or sandals sends a message to your brain that it’s time to play.

Flip-Flops and slip-on sandals are the ideal vacation shoe. They are easy to pack, have multiple uses and help your mind dissolve the stress. Psychologists have found that wearing flip-flops liberates your mind from the formality of your work life.

Flip-flops are also inexpensive to buy, and because they are flat, are the closest footwear to walking barefoot.

1] Allow Your Feet to Air

To prevent fungal infections, you need to let your feet breathe. While flip-flops and sandals are ideal for giving your feet some much-needed air, you have to pay additional attention to how you care for your feet.

Allowing your feet to breathe staves off nasty odors, but the air dries out the skin. Make sure to apply moisturizer several times a day to keep the skin nourished and moist, particularly when the weather is warmer.

However, don’t apply cream to your feet before you go out walking in sandals as your feet will slide about and increase the risk of twisting your ankle. This could also make your feet sore due to the added movement and rubbing.

2] Fungal Infection Prevention

Flip-flops may not provide the structural support your feet need, but they offer protection against fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot and toenail fungus. When you visit your local swimming pool, you don’t want to be without your flip-flops.

Fungi thrive in hot and moist environments. Therefore, public locker rooms, swimming pools, saunas, and steam rooms are the ideal breeding ground for fungal infections. If you or a member of your household has a fungal infection, wearing flip-flops in the shower could help to prevent the fungal infection (as well as verrucas) from spreading to your family members and friends.

3] Are Sandals Good for Arthritis?

According to a report in Arthritis Care & Research, a 2010 study performed by Chicago’s Rush University found that flip-flops and sandals reduce the level of stress on the knee.

The findings were significant for people suffering from knee osteoarthritis. Wearing flip-flops with arch support, flexible footwear and walking barefoot creates less impact on the knee and has a cushioning effect on the heel and foot.

Naijo Shakoor MD, the lead author of the study, noted that wearing flip-flops “reduced knee load by about the same percentage” as walking barefoot.

However, if you do choose to wear flip-flops, it is crucial that you select a pair that does offer some structural support. Cheap, flat or plastic flip-flops are inadvisable.

If you do have arthritis, experts recommend choosing footwear that is specifically designed to provide support for your bones.

sandals that are good for your feet

Look for characteristics in the design that help your arthritic condition:

  1. Straps enable you to adjust the fit of the shoe and provide your feet with more security. Without straps, your toes work harder by gripping into the insole of your flip-flops. Ideally, you should wear sandals with an ankle strap. However, avoid straps that cut across sensitive areas of your feet as they can rub and cut through the skin.
  2. Before you purchase footwear, have your feet measured. Even though you’ve been wearing shoes for years, as you get older your feet can become broader and change shape because of arthritis. Wearing shoes that are too tight will make arthritis in your feet worse.
  3. Arthritis can make your feet swell up. If this is the case for you, take this fact into consideration when purchasing shoes. The best option is to go shopping when your feet are swollen. For most people, this is late afternoon.
  4. While looking stylish is a consideration when buying shoes, the first consideration for people with arthritis should be the feel. The foot sizes vary between brands and styles, and even though you may like the look of a particular style, if they do not feel comfortable around your toes, under the soles or the back of your heels, they are not a pair you should be buying. Don’t invest in a pair of shoes with the intention of breaking them in.
  5. When you shop for shoes, wear the type of socks or stocking you usually wear, together with any insoles. It can be a good idea to buy shoes a size or half-size too big to give your feet more room and compensate for the additional thickness of socks.
  6. Insoles are also highly recommended for people suffering from arthritis. Insoles provide your feet with extra depth and cushioning. They also help support the arch of your foot. If you have arthritis across the middle of your foot, a rigid insole may help.

4] Fashionable Styles and Colors

Select a style that suits the activity you’re doing while providing sufficient protection for your feet.

As we have established, flip-flops may be a way to help liberate your mind, but they should be worn in moderation. They are not ideal footwear for walking distances of any significant length or on terrain which is uneven.

They are, however, an ideal companion for protecting your feet in warm and damp environments which are breeding grounds for fungal infections. A cheap pair of flat flip-flops are ideal for wearing to public swimming pools, saunas and shared locker rooms at the gym.

You should also wear flip-flops on the beach or in the park where sharp objects could be lurking out of sight.

Flip-flops are also ideal for wearing on vacation, but it is advisable to buy a style that gives your feet more protection and security. Although many flip-flop designs are flat and do not have any arch support, you can find designs that have a high heel. This reduces the impact on your tendon and ball of the foot.

Flip-flops come in a myriad of designs and colors. You should be looking to purchase flip-flops with leather uppers and cushioned soles. Straps around the ankles secure your feet are also a beneficial design feature.

If you are worried about the negative impact flip-flops could be having on your feet and gait, why not invest in a pair that has been designed by a podiatrist?

The four critical components of sandals are as follows:

  1. Rigid, non-flexible sole
  2. Wide, and no pressure on toes
  3. Rearfoot strap
  4. Arch support

Several years ago, there was a flip-flop craze for sandals that helped to improve the muscle tone and firm up your legs and derriere. While so-called “FitFlops” absorb up to 22% more shock than the average sandal, podiatrists described the brand as the best of a bad bunch.

Do Flips Flops Damage the Feet?

Although walking barefoot has many health benefits, podiatrists warn that wearing flip-flops too often can cause you problems.

1] No Support or Protection for Your Feet

Summertime is the busiest time of year for new foot complaints. Podiatrists say the cause is down to flip-flops and the season’s most popular footwear, none of which provide sufficient protection for your feet.

While flip-flops and sandals provide convenience during the hot summer months, and when you’re on vacation, podiatrists make it clear that wearing flat footwear all day will create long-term damage the bones, ligaments, and tendons in your feet, ankles, and legs.

This is particularly the case if you are doing a lot of walking. Flip-flops have thin soles and do not provide arch support for the soles of your feet or your lower body. Due to the lack of cushioning your heels and ankles have to absorb the shock of hard surfaces.

When footwear does not provide structural support for your bones and joints, your gait will be affected over time. Researchers believe wearing flip-flops every day will cause pain in your feet, ankles, knees, and hips.

Furthermore, because flip-flops do not have any arch support, your feet turn inwards towards the middle of your body instead of straight outwards. This gives your Achilles a false sense of security and causes the tendon to shorten. You are also more likely to experience an ankle sprain.

Despite podiatrists cautioning against the long-term effects of flip-flops and sandals, experts in other areas reveal that flat footwear can be an advantage for people suffering from bone conditions, such as arthritis (discussed above).

2] Flip-Flops Hurt Between Toes

Although flip-flops are a good choice of footwear during the summer months, overuse can cause your toes to hurt. Flat footwear that lacks structure can cause more strain on the metatarsal area of your foot which causes pain in your toes.

Because flip-flops are typically designed with a think strap or rubber holding, they do not provide sufficient support for your feet. As a consequence, your toes work harder to maintain the grip.

This is a psychological reaction when you change your type of footwear from the all-around security of a shoe to the looseness of strapless flip-flops. With continuous wear, your feet are overworked your toes are pushed together.

When your toes subconsciously grip into the insoles, the first and second toes rub against one another and cause blisters. Not only that, but the repetitive strain can trigger tendonitis, an inflammation in the tendon and connecting muscles.

sandals allow your feet to air

Strapless flip-flops bend your toes and cause your feet to jut outwards. Wearing them for long periods may result in the development of hammer toe.

Hammer toe can cause discomfort when you wear regular shoes. It’s often the case that your toes will rub against the shoes whereby the resulting friction develops corns. Podiatrists suggest wearing flexible footwear that provides structural support for the feet, ankle, and knees.

Also, take the following precautions to reduce the likelihood of causing long-term damage:

  • Don’t wear flip-flops or sandals that have no arch support when walking long distances
  • Try to avoid getting flip-flops wet
  • Choose fabric over plastic
  • Invest in silicone toe post protectors to protect your feet from friction
  • Don’t wear flip-flops if you have a cut or blister, and if you are likely to be out in public without covering your feet, put a plaster of bandage over the affected area to avoid picking up an infection

3] Pain on Top of Foot

The structure of your feet is very complicated. If you are experiencing pain on the top of your foot, there could be many reasons. The most common causes of foot pain are from active or contact sports.

Excessive running can lead to pain on top of the foot, together with jumping and kicking. However, you can also feel pain on the top of your foot if you have ill-fitting shoes that are either too tight or put pressure on your feet.

The types of foot pain your experience include:

Extensor Tendonitis

This is caused by wearing shoes that are too tight and press against the top of your feet. When this happens, it causes the tendons along the top of your foot to pull the foot upwards and become inflamed.

Sinus Tarsi Syndrome

The sinus tarsi are the channels that run between the heel and the ankle. Although a rare condition, when this area of the foot comes under too much strain, it can become inflamed. The pain is felt at the top of your foot.

Stress Fracture of Bones in the Feet

A bone fracture in the foot or toe will also be felt on the top of your foot. Swelling usually occurs which is tender to the touch. You will probably also have some bruising.

Heel Spurs

If you suffer from continuous episodes of plantar fasciitis, you may also develop heel spurs due to a build-up of calcium on the bone. Heel spurs can be very painful and are felt throughout your feet and toes.

Gout

Gout is a disease that causes arthritis and can occur in the foot. If you have gout, you will feel bouts of intense pain in the joints of your feet, especially at the base of your big toe.

4] Pain in Arch of Foot (Plantar Fasciitis)

Because most flip-flop designs are flat and flimsy, they don’t secure your feet. The lack of support means your feet work harder to stay in place which can cause a strain in the arch of your foot.

If you do notice pain in the sole of your foot, it may be due to damage to the plantar fascia. This is the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel to the toes. It is the plantar fascia that creates the arch of your foot.

When you develop plantar fasciitis, the sole of your foot will become inflamed and will feel sensitive to the touch. If left untreated, the problem could get worse, and over time your foot could flatten.

Plantar fasciitis is quite common. If you develop the condition on too many occasions and do not treat it correctly, your body automatically produces new bone to curb the pulling.

However, this creates a build-up of bone. A heel spur then appears and can feel like a pinching inside your heel. The area subsequently becomes very painful, and you made need corrective surgery to cure it.

can flip flops cause nerve damage?

5] Can Flip-Flops Cause Nerve Damage?

Wearing flip-flops does not provide sufficient protection against neuropathy, a condition that affects nerves in the body. And it is thought there are around 200,000 nerve endings in the foot.

Warning signs of potential peripheral nerve damage in the foot are tingling, prickling or numbness – pins and needles in the feet.

Footwear that has closed arch support keep your feet secure and less likely to slide about. Flip-flops, on the other hand, are typically strapless and do not provide your feet with sufficient arch support.

Subsequently, your foot tends to roll about from heel to toes when you walk. This puts more pressure on the ball of your foot. If you are wearing flip-flops every day or walking long distances in them, you expose sensitive areas of your feet to impact on hard ground.

Persistent pounding on your feet, especially for people that are not accustomed to shock in their feet, irritates the nerves. If you feel pain anywhere in your foot, it is advisable to steer clear of flip-flops and wear shoes that provide more support.

6] Flip-Flops Keep Sliding Off the Feet

You will probably find that your foot keeps slipping out of flip-flop designs which do not have a strap that holds your feet secure. Rogue flip-flops can cause you to trip over or twist your ankle.

Loose-fitting footwear can be particularly hazardous if they cause your feet to sweat or become wet on the insoles. While the best course of action is to avoid wearing flip-flops when that your feet keep sliding out of, there are other actionable tactics you can try if you do not have any other option:

  • Hairspray method – If your flip-flops have leather insteps, apply extra-hold hairspray to give the ball of your foot and heel more grip
  • Wear socks – Socks soak up the moisture from your feet and prevent you from sliding around in your flip-flops.
  • Tights with sole grips – If socks don’t do it for you, how about skin-colored tights with built-in sole grips. Nobody will ever notice.
  • Double-stick tape – Double-sided sticky tape on the balls and heel of your foot help flip-flops and sandals stay in place

Exercising in flip-flops and sandals is more likely to result in injury. This is the case regardless of how well designed and suitable marketers say they are. When exercising, wear the best style of footwear for the activity you are engaged in.

So, the key takeaway with regards flip-flops is to wear them sparingly. By all means, pack them for your vacation but limit their use to the poolside and potentially dangerous areas of the beach.