North Texas Daily

Getting more flip for your flop

Getting more flip for your flop

August 13
09:50 2009

When it comes to affordable, convenient and fashionably versatile footwear, flip-flops are hard to beat. However, the long-term damage flip-flops can create may cause some to reconsider how they outfit their feet.

flipflop5Spanish and education senior Staci Travis wears flip-flops because they are affordable, fashionable and convenient when she’s getting ready for a busy day. “But they’re not very comfortable for walking around campus because they don‘t really have any support,” she said.Most flip-flops offer little to no support for the arch of the foot, and their lack of structure can cause long-term damage – some of which can require surgery.

The long-term effects
“Flip-flops will keep me in business for the rest of my career,” said Dr. Damien Dauphinée, a podiatrist at Complete Foot and Ankle Care in Denton.
A healthy person with a perfectly normal foot can wear flip-flops for hours on end with no problems, Dauphinée said, but for a person with even a slight foot problem, flip-flops can cause extensive damage to the foot’s 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles.
Heel pain caused by a condition called plantar fasciitis, also known as heel spurs, is one of the most frequent issues Dauphinée sees with people who spend a lot of time in sandals.
The plantar fascia is a ligament that stretches from the heel, through the arch, to the base of the toes. When a person wears a shoe with no arch support, it causes the arch to flatten too much, or abnormally pronate, stretching the ligament beyond its capabilities and causing it to become inflamed.
While we’re young, our tissues are flexible and able to handle the stretching and tearing with little to no pain but as we age, our tissues begin to stiffen and we feel the effects of long-term sandal wear.
“A lot of the time, plantar fasciitis occurs with women who wear sandals all the time,” Dauphinée said. “There are sandals with arch support and if you have good foot structure then they’re probably OK; but if you continue to wear them even after you start feeling pain, you’re going to have problems.”
Since toes have to grip flip-flops with every step, sandals can contribute to hammertoe – a condition where the toe becomes curved and rigid. Flip-flops can also cause bunions (which usually require surgery) as well as hip and back pain. Also, sandals offer little to no coverage for the foot, leaving it exposed to the sun, germs, fungi and injuries, according to an article from the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Taking it one step at a time

Don’t chunk out your favorite flops just yet. A healthy college-age person between the ages of 18 to 24 can handle a fair amount of foot abuse, and if that person varies their footwear as often as possible then there is a lower risk of causing severe damage, Dauphinée said.
Also, many of the issues associated with extensive sandal wearing can be fixed with minor measures like shoe inserts called orthoses, anti-inflammation medication and stretching.
A little bit of knowledge about your own feet can also help you make smarter decisions about all your footwear, from flip-flops to athletic shoes.
“Flip-flops were originally intended for a few hours of wear at the beach, but now they’re a fashion statement,” said Mike Carey, a certified pedorthist (highly-trained, expert shoe-fitter) and owner of Foot Solutions shoe store in Flower Mound.
College students belong to
the second generation of people who walk almost entirely on concrete – from parking lots and sidewalks to the concrete foundations upon which most houses and buildings are built, Carey said.
“The main problem with concrete is that it has no give, and that can be especially harmful for someone wearing shoes that don’t offer any support or shock absorption,” he said.
To combat the concrete jungle, Carey advises buying shoes with thicker, shock absorbing soles instead of “a board and a string.”
Equally important is finding which qualities of a shoe will work best for your individual foot. Pedorthists, like Carey, use many techniques and instruments to determine how a person’s foot is structured and what kind of support is needed in different areas. Seeing a pedorthist is not absolutely necessary; consulting a knowledgeable sales associate at any shoe store can be just as helpful.
With the right information, finding a comfortable, fashionable, properly fitting pair of shoes can be as good for your wallet as it is for your body.

– Heather Jackson

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