Sep 02

Tip of the Month – August 2020

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Coach Monika Says…

Why You Shouldn’t Wear Flip-flops 

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Based on my observation throughout the years, many coaches tend to wear appropriate footwear when coaching. The exception seems to be swim coaches shuffling up and down on the pool deck in their flip-flops, especially in the summer. I always use flip-flops in shower stalls to avoid ‘athletes fungi or athlete foot’ but have strictly worn strong supportive tennis shoes on deck for safety, protection, and health.

By Greta Heggeness 

Jul. 21, 2020 

If you are one of those people (athlete or coach), who wear flip-flops on a regular basis strictly out of convenience, you might be surprised to learn that they aren’t benefiting your feet whatsoever. According to Dr. Miguel Cunha, a board-certified podiatric surgeon and founder of Gotham Footcare in NYC, “wearing flip-flops can have negative long-term effects on your feet due to lack of support.” Here’s what he had to say:

1. Are flip-flops bad for your feet?

The answer is “yes,” simply because flip-flops put unnecessary strain on your joints. “I typically advise my patients NOT to wear flip-flops for prolonged periods of time as they allow the foot to collapse affecting gait and posture, which can lead to a tremendous amount of stress not only to the foot but to the rest of the body.” Dr. Cunha also explains the long-term effects of wearing flip-flops. 

…”Our feet naturally pronate during the gait cycle. However, when we wear flip-flops we pronate for a longer period of time, which then alters the biomechanics and distribution of pressure and weight across the foot. This imbalance may increase the progression of underlying foot deformities such as bunions and hammertoes and lead to painful conditions associated with excessive pronation such as arch/heel pain, shin splints/posterior tibial tendonitis, and Achilles tendonitis. It can then translate upward affecting other parts of the body such as the knees and back.”  Phew, and we thought they were just easy beach shoes…

2. What will happen if I continue wearing flip-flops?

You may experience no symptoms. However, Dr. Cunha warned that flip-flops could exacerbate three major foot issues:  

  • Hammer Toes: Hammer toes are contractions of the toe caused by a muscular imbalance in the foot where the tendons on the bottom of the foot over power the tendons on the top of the foot. As the toes contract, they may become permanently bent in a flexed position. Because flip-flops do not have a back-strap, we must grip the shoe with our toes, further flexing and bending our toes.
  • Bunions: A bunion is a biomechanical imbalance involving the great toe joint. It is often described as a bump on the side of the big toe. Bunions start when the big toe rotates sideways towards the second toe and the first metatarsal projects outward in the opposite direction producing the characteristic bump, which increases prominently over time. Flip-flops lack adequate support of the foot, which further agitates existing bunions.
  • Heel Pain/Plantar Fasciitis: “The plantar fascia is a shock-absorbing bowstring like thick ligament that connects the heel to toes. When walking in flip-flops, the arch collapses causing this bowstring to stretch out leading to the formation of micro-tears in the ligament that can result in weakness, swelling, and irritation of the plantar fascia. It may feel like a stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot when getting out of bed in the morning, after standing for prolonged periods of time, or when standing up after sitting for a while.

3. When is it OK to wear flip-flops? 

According to Dr. Cunha, it all depends on the activity. This means that short-term wear is A-OK, just as long as one is not doing strenuous work, like running or hiking. Flip-flops are only acceptable for short-term use if they have at least some arch support, a cushioned sole, and supportive strap. These types of flip-flops are appropriate to wear at the beach, around swimming pools, in communal bathing facilities and locker rooms at the gym, or around the house.”

4. What should I wear instead?

There are several alternatives, including a simple summer slide. A good way to promote healthy feet but also stay cool includes summer slide shoes (sandals) because they provide more support and stability than a traditional flip-flop. These shoes have a thicker and ribbed sole, which provides greater traction and stability of the shoe to help minimize injuries.” 

Ankle support is another key element because “Flip-flops aren’t as dangerous to your ankles as a high heel because the shoe is closer to the ground. However, select shoes with ankle straps, because no matter how high or low the shoe is, one misstep could cause a sprained ankle. Shoes that are secured on the foot with a strap offer support around the ankle and sides that hold the shoe steadily on the foot reduces the risk of a sprain.” 



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