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Flip-Flop Flub: Your Choice of Footwear and Foot, Joint Pain

Flip Flops If you’ve been even somewhat attuned to political news in the past year, you’ve no doubt heard the word “flip-flop” with some regularity. But pols aren’t using the word to refer to their foot attire. No, they’re using the word to refer to their political adversaries’ modifying views on taxes, foreign policy, immigration and abortion.

What I’m about to tell you, though, may cause you to do a flip-flop of your own regarding your view on the flip-flop.  Confused?  Don’t be.

It might come as a bummer, but an Alabama study’s results should leave your flip-flops finished for the summer. That’s because flip-flops can incur serious damage on the two things that get you from here to there: your feet.

The study out of Auburn University (Go Tigers!) studied 39 college-aged men and women (a good sample, as there are lots of college-aged men and women who travel from class to class in flip-flops).  To test the effect of flip-flops on the participants’ feet, they had each participant walk on a special platform that measured the impact their feet made with the platform and the length of their stride when they walked. They also had them walk across the platform wearing athletic shoes to see if there was a difference.

According to the study’s chief researcher and author, Auburn graduate student Justin Shroyer, the participants’ altered their gait depending on whether they were wearing flip-flops or athletic shoes. When participants wore flip-flops, the length of their stride tended to be shorter and the impact with which their feet hit the platform was lessened compared to when they wore athletic shoes. This suggests that the participants were modifying their walking patterns because flip-flops don’t support the foot as properly as athletic shoes and they were trying to keep the flip-flops from flying off their feet. If the participants were to wear flip-flops with regularity – like throughout the summer months, for instance – it comes as no surprise that that lack of support will cause their feet to ache. 

The results of the study led doctors and the study’s researchers themselves to better understand why so many people develop foot and joint problems, such as plantar fasciitis and tendonitis.

Flip-flops are great for lounging around the house in the summer, fall, winter or spring. But if you’re using them for walking a length of any significance – even if that walking is in the mall or drug store – you’re using them for the wrong reasons. 

Remember the movie Forrest Gump? There’s a part in the movie where Forrest and his good friend Bubba talk to their platoon leader, Lieutenant Dan Taylor. At the end of their conversation, Taylor gives Bubba and Forrest the platoon’s two standing orders:  try not to do anything stupid, and take care of your feet. That applies to the non-soldier as well. If you take care of your feet, you’re protecting yourself from a lifetime of pain and aggravation that comes with arthritis and tendonitis. But if you wear flip-flops for the wrong reasons – like walking – you’re violating both of Lieutenant Dan’s standing orders.

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