Auburn University researchers have found that wearing thong-style flip-flops can result in sore feet, ankles and legs. The research team presented its findings at the recent annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis.
The study found that when people walk in flip-flops, they alter their gait, which can result in problems and pain from the foot up into the hips and lower back. Variations like this at the foot can result in changes up the kinetic chain, which in this case can extend upward in the wearer’s body.
Thirty-nine college-aged men and women were recruited for the study. Participants, wearing thong-style flip-flops and then traditional athletic shoes, walked a platform that measured vertical force as the walkers’ feet hit the ground. In addition, a video camcorder measured stride length and limb angles.
It turns out that flip-flop wearers take shorter steps and that their heels hit the ground with less vertical force than when the same walkers wore athletic shoes. When wearing flip-flops, the study participants did not bring their toes up as much during the leg’s swing phase, resulting in a larger ankle angle and shorter stride length, possibly because they tended to grip the flip-flops with their toes.
The research does not suggest that people should never wear flip-flops. They can be worn to provide short-term benefits such as helping beach-goers avoid sandy shoes or giving athletes post-game relief from their athletic shoes, but are not designed to properly support the foot and ankle during all-day wear. Improper foot and ankle support frequently leads to knee, hip and lower back problems as well.
Don’t let bad footwear cause you to have a painful summer.