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  • Dr. Michael Mollenhauer

Topic: Flip Flops/Sandals

This is certainly one of my favourite topics to discuss in summer time. Footwear in general is very important and sandals of all kinds make an appearance in summer.

Flip flops are very common for people to use so long as there isn’t snow on the ground. They seem very convenient as we just slide them on, no bending needed. This is one of the main reason people like them, the no bending. We have all gotten lazy.

Let’s discuss the flip flop construction and how it is used by our foot. In the typical example in the photo, we slide these on. The construction is very flimsy and provides next to no support. There of course is no side support nor a back strap to lock them on. The lack of a strap on the back causes some amazing things to occur when we walk. What must occur every step is one of two things:

  1. The toes/ankle curl up to keep the sandal angled toe up so it doesn’t fall off.

  2. The toes curl down, pressing the top of the sandal to the bottom of our foot, pressing it in place.

Both these scenarios have interesting consequences. Scenario 1 causes the toe extensor muscles to become overworked, as they don’t usually have to do much on a barefoot step or step with a shoe on. This way of walking also has a distinctive sound. You will hear the heel of the sandal drag on the ground. Once you know what it is, you will hear it everywhere. It is unmistakable. As you can imagine this extra work is not something our leg is very happy with

Scenario 2 causes some equally negative things to our leg. When curling the toes, the foot is almost making a ‘fist’ with every step taken. This is a common cause of the small foot muscles (intrinsic foot muscles) to become sore. This soreness will be noticed mainly on the bottom of the foot. Over time this can cause enough pain that walking itself is painful, obviously something we do not want.

Lastly, what if the toes did neither of these things? A very interesting thing occurs. If you are able to walk with your toes ‘dead’ the sandal will just remain in place on the ground where you took the step and your foot will go ahead without it. This works best on the sandals without the piece between your big and second toe. It sounds crazy but it works, see if you can do it.

While I hate to say it, not all sandals are bad. Sandals with backs, and made of a more rigid material are much better to use. Having said that, when going for walks etc you are much better off in traditional running shoes.

Until next time, ditch the flip flops.


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