Three Common Myths About Flip-Flops

Flip-flops have been getting a bad rap in the media. According to some experts, flip-flops are bad for your feet, shins, knees, hips, and back. If these pundits are talking about flip-flops with a thin, completely flat rubber sole that sprouts a cheap plastic toe post and flimsy straps – the kind that falls apart after a few weeks – then I agree. But, not all flip-flops are created equal. Some designs may be beneficial to foot health, lower-limb function, and overall posture, including Spenco® Footwear with Total Support® Technology.

Here are some three common criticisms levelled against flip-flops.

1. Flip-flops can cause hip, leg, knee, or back pain.
As a podiatrist in the Cayman Islands, most of my patients wear flip-flops for long periods of time, especially on weekends. Over the last ten years—apart from the odd strap blister—I cannot remember a single injury caused by wearing flip-flops. But don’t just take my word for it. After a thorough search of the published literature, I cannot find one research paper that implicates flip-flops are the primary cause of hip, shin, or back pain.
Of course, I encourage every patient to discard their flimsy flip-flops in favour of pair of Spenco® Sandals with thick, cushioned midsoles, non-slip outsoles, deep heel cups for improved heel stability, and good arch supports. I recently recommended them to two of my patients with proximal fasciitis and, in both cases, the pain subsided by more than 75% in the first 12-hours!

When it comes to knee pain, one study found that flip-flops were superior to a stability running shoe in reducing loading forces—i.e., providing shock absorption—at the knee in people with knee arthritis.

2. Flip-flops expose your feet to bacteria, viral, and fungal infections.
Would you wear gloves 24/7 to limit hand exposure to potentially harmful microorganisms? Then why do some "experts" propose this as essential for good foot health? Human skin is a highly effective organ at preventing infections. In fact, closed shoes are more likely to retain bacteria, fungal spores, and viruses in the moist, warm toe-box than open sandals. And Spenco® sandals are infused with Ultra-Fresh, an antimicrobial agent that reduces harmful bacteria that can cause odour.

3. Flip-flops can cause terrible blisters and accerbate bunions.
Flip-flops must be “worn-in” like any other shoe. I advise my patients to manipulate the straps to soften them up a little before wearing them. I also tell them not to wear any sandals for long periods of time at first, and to remove them if they begin to feel strap irritation. Having said this, although most of the cheaper styles have thin, rubber straps that may cut into the skin, well-designed and properly manufactured styles such as the Spenco® Total Support® range have wide, padded straps that spread the strap pressure across a larger surface area of the skin to reduce the risk of irritation and blisters. Orthotic style flip-flops with a stabilizing heel cup, a good arch support, and a metatarsal dome can help reduce the development of bunions. In fact, many of my patients with bunions that rub against the uppers of closed shoes choose to wear open-toe thongs as much as possible to avoid friction over the enlarged joint that causes blisters, inflammation, and pain.

Not all flip-flops are created equal; some brands are designed and manufactured better than others. Spenco® Total Support® flip-flops and sandals have features that offer good shock-absorption; heel stability; arch and metatarsal support; wide, padded straps to reduce the risk of blisters; a soft toe post to avoid irritation between the toes, and are treated with an antibacterial agent to reduce bacteria and odor, all of which is why they carry the American Podiatric Medical Association’s Seal of Acceptance as a product that promotes good foot health.

Foot Smarts
There are some cases where you should not wear flip-flops:
•If you have “weak ankles” you should wear a whole shoe with a firm sole and strong heel counter to maintain foot and ankle stability.
•If you are a diabetic you should be in well-fitted whole shoes to protect your feet from minor injuries that could lead to infection.
•If you have had skin cancer, or if you have very fair skin likely to burn in the sun, you should keep your feet covered.
•Do not wear flip-flops for walking long distances, moving over uneven terrain, or playing sports.

Raymond J. Anthony, FCPodS, DPodM
Raymond J. Anthony, FCPodS, DPodM


Ray is a practicing podiatrist and has worked with Spenco as a consultant, lending his podiatric, biomechanical and professional expertise since 2010. With over 35 years experience in treating foot and leg disorders, Ray has extensive experience in clinical biomechanics, foot orthotic therapy, sports medicine of the lower limb, and children's foot and leg disorders.

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