There are a few things about flip-flops that keep foot doctors up at night. They have a reputation for worsening existing foot and ankle problems and get blamed for causing a variety of lower extremity problems in the leg, knee and back and increase underlying foot deformities. In addition to that, flip flops offer little protection from foreign objects and the elements. Flip flops expose your feet to all manner of sidewalk debris; pieces of glass, rocks, twigs and because flip flops often slip halfway off your feet when you're walking, more so when running, you're more likely to slip and fall.
That being said this iconic universal symbol of summer is not going away. So for those of you who are diehard flip flop fans here are some things you should look for from a foot doctor's perspective who has seen his fair share of problems caused by flip flops.
1. Most flip-flops require you to hold on with your toes causing your feet to "crunch up" in an unnatural position. Look for flip flops that are engineered so you don’t need to grip so hard to keep them on with straps that are shaped to hold the shoes on you.
2. Most flip-flops are flat underfoot. Look for flip flops that are engineered to follow the natural curves of the foot. Lack of proper support affects gait and posture which can lead to a tremendous amount of stress not only on the foot but the rest of the body.
3. Many flip flops will wear down quickly due to the material they are made from. Look for substantial materials that bounce back after each step, giving the full amount of cushioning, comfort, support and control to prevent injury.
4. Be smart about wearing flip flops. If you will be walking in an area that exposes your feet to cuts, bruises or walking or hiking for long periods of time consider other foot gear. If you have experienced previous foot problems, wearing flip flops for an extended period of time may not be your best option. If you have a cut or wound anywhere on your feet do not wear flip flops until it has healed to avoid a more serious infection. At minimum look for flip flops with an antimicrobial foot bed to minimize exposure to environmental pathogens.