Study: Comfortable flip-flops causing painful health risks

For many Floridians, flip-flops are an essential part of our lives. But with several cases of stubbed toes, sprained ankles, broken bones and blistered feet, the comfortable shoe is associated with some painful health risks.

According to the National Foot Health Assessment released in June, 78 percent of adults 21 and older have experienced one or more foot problems in their lives.

A common reason for this, especially during the summer, is the flip-flop.

 You can find people wearing flip flops everywhere - from the beach, to the grocery store and even the office. But Bob Thompson, executive director for the Institute for Preventive Foot Health, said that flat sandals are nothing but bad news.

 Thompson, who doesn't own a single pair.

"There's no heel support and structural support ... on that little slab of rubber," he said.

But flip-flops are hard not to love, said Brian Curin, president and co-founder of Flip Flop Shops.

"It promotes this good mental state of health," he said. "It's hard to be in a bad mood when you're wearing flip-flops."

Despite the shoe's popularity, there are many risks involved with wearing flip-flops.

Our feet were designed to walk barefoot on Earth's natural surfaces like grass, sand or gravel, Thompson said. Anything else is harsh on bare feet, and the thin rubber sole of many flip-flops does not do enough to sufficiently absorb the shock hard surfaces produce.

A flat shoe does not provide enough arch or lateral support, CNN reports. 

Flat shoes can also cause slight shifts in a person's stance over time, leading to misalignment and pain in the knees, hips and back.

 Flip-flops can also lead to tumbles, twisted ankles and even broken bones.

Shoes should flex where your foot bends, said Noreen Oswell, a podiatrist at The Foot Center at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Towers in Los Angeles. But the rubber soles of most flip-flops just bend all over the place, while the stiff soles of some stylish varieties may not bend at all, she said.

The straps on flip-flops can also be a health risk. The straps can rub as a wearer walks, creating friction that can cause blisters.

And it's not uncommon for wearers to get cuts, scrapes and bruises on their feet since lightweight sandals offer almost no protection.

 "A little layer of rubber -- it will protect you from a stone or a glass, but a nail could puncture that," Thompson said.

 According to Oswell, people with diabetes have the highest risk of having feet problems from wearing flip-flops. Since they often have poor circulation and feeling in their feet, wearing flip-flops can expose them to not only injury but to infection.

People with balance issues are also at risk since they may find it difficult to feel secure when wearing rubbery flip-flops. Flip-flop wearers suffering from obesity can experience strained feet that are already stressed with carrying extra weight.

 The real problem is that people are wearing flip-flops while doing everything from skateboarding to gardening to running errands, Oswell said.

 "It's not that they wear them," Oswell said. "They over-wear them."

 But according to Curin, researchers who typically use cheap rubber flip-flops that can be purchased at discount stores in their study must realize not all flip-flops are created equally. 

"They seem to miss that whole other part of the industry that is creating really good footwear with innovation and technology," he said.

So instead of buying a pair of flip-flops from drugstores, spending the extra money to buy a pair with deep heel cups, high arch support and comfortable toe support would help to decrease the health risks.

To know more on avoiding the health risks associated with flip-flops, go to:

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