Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
First we hear about flip-flops and cancer risks, and now this: New research shows extended flip-flop wear could lead to prolonged foot and leg pain. D’oh!
“We 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,’’ said Justin Shroyer.
Shroyer, a biomechanics doctoral student at Auburn University, measured 39 college-aged men and women as they walked in flip-flops on a platform that measured vertical force. He also used a video camera to monitor their stride lengths and angles. Sandal wearers tended to take shorter steps than their shoe’d counterparts, and they seemed to use their toes to grip the sandals as they walked, which led to a bigger angle to the ankle and a shorter stride.
That doesn’t mean you should throw your sandals away, though: Shroyer himself owns two pairs and thinks they’re fine for use over short periods, like at the beach or after a lengthy athletic pursuit (like a long hike). He just argues that they aren’t intended for prolonged, all-day wear.
Proponents of flip-flops argue that they come closest to mimicking the gait of the naked foot, and some fans even say their feet feel stronger after years of flip-flop use.
With summer in full swing, the Backpacker staff is dominated by flip-flop wearers. We haven’t heard any complaints of pain around the office, but to be fair, some staffers wear flip-flops with chunky, orthotic-based soles that make their feet look like Robocop. So that might help.
— Ted Alvarez