Flip-Flops: More Cause for Concern & Caution than Convenience

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Beach sandals and hat

Flip-flops were designed for the ease of walking on a sandy beach and as a health measure to prevent nasty infections like Athlete’s foot at a spa or pool - but since the 1960s, people have been wearing flip-flops everywhere for the sheer convenience.

Beach sandals and hat

While flip-flops are comfortable for a short while, they provide zero support and therefore not recommended for long walks or driving a car. 

The sole of a flip-flop can get caught underneath the brake pedal or slide off your foot causing a slower reaction time due to the inability to move effectively between the gas and break pedals.

The National Health Service in the United Kingdom reported that more than 200,000 patients are treated annually for flip flop-related injuries at an estimated cost of more than ₤ 40 million ($62 million dollars).

Flip-flop quote - 3

In Canada, there are no laws that ban people from wearing flip-flops while operating a vehicle but if you drive erratically or it is determined that flip-flops are directly responsible for the cause of an accident, you could be charged with careless driving.

Flip-Flops Cause Injuries 

Aside from car accidents, flip-flops, flimsy sandals and slippery, soled shoes cause serious alignment and posture issues.

blue flip-flops

If you are suffering from unexplained back pain, the shoes you are wearing could very well be the culprit.  Are your shoes comfortable?  Are your feet well supported?  Are you able to walk at a good pace with ease?

The Orthopedic and Neurosurgical Care and Research Center in the United States asserts that flip-flops could cause tendon inflammation, ligament injuries, over-stressed arches and plantar fasciitis.

Toes naturally scrunch to grip the thong of a flip-flop or sandal resulting in a shortened stride, forcing the leg muscles to work harder.  Hammertoes, shin splints, muscle pain and stress fractures are common injuries.

Flip-flop quote - 2

 

Tripping while wearing flip-flops can cause blistering, blunt trauma to the toes, torn toenail beds, toe fractures and ankle sprains.

flip-flops and pail with umbrella
Children's flip-flops

Properly Fitted Footwear for Children

 “…weeks of roaming in ill-fitting, lightweight flip-flops may cause children serious harm,” states the Pedorthic Association of Canada.  Growing children don’t receive the support, motion control and cushioning they need.

Children typically wear flip-flops at the beach or at a swimming pool but for running, jumping and playing Pedorthic Association of Canada recommends properly fitted, supportive sandals.

Don’t Wear Flip-Flops if…

- you have existing foot injuries or mechanical failure.

- you have diabetes.  Diabetic people are at a higher risk of infection.  Flip-flops made of porous material can absorb all kinds of bacteria and fungi, which can cause serious infections.

- if you are significantly overweight.  Flip-flops and sandals with little or no support will inflict a lot of stress on your feet, knees, hips and lower back.

- if you are flat-footed or high-arched.  Flip-flops will alter the natural position of your feet, ankles, knees and hips.

properly fitted summer sandals
husband and wife wearing summer sandals

Health and Safety Recommendations

For long walks, hikes or shopping sprees choose footwear with good support.

If you must wear flip-flops, choose a thick, well-cushioned sole with good arch support. Flip-flops made of natural materials such as leather or fabric are often safer and cause less discomfort

Consider wearing a sandal with a back strap to decrease muscle stress and toe scrunching.

Flip-flops often cause an awkward gait. Avoid walking on slippery surfaces and areas that contain sharp objects.

Don’t wear flip-flops or loose, flimsy sandals while driving. Keep a spare pair of driver-friendly shoes in the car.

Flips-flops wear down quickly. It’s a good idea to replace them when you see signs of deterioration.

properly fitted sandals with arch
Flip-flops quote - 4

The Origin of Flip-Flops

Sandals similar to flip-flops originated as early as 1500 BC, and are often illustrated in ancient Egyptian murals and temples

After World War II, soldiers from the US, Australia and New Zealand became partial to Japanese zōri, a sandal that looks very similar to the flip-flop.  They were quickly adopted into the American culture.

Originated in the 1950s, the name ‘flip-flop’ describes the sound a sandal makes between the sole of your foot and the floor. 

In the 1960s, flip-flops became popular as unisex footwear and the precursor to the infamous Jesus boots of the countercultural movement called the ‘hippie era’.

Summer sandals

Resources

For additional information, Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following websites:

Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries of University Museums – The Birthplace of Flip-Flops

Ortho Bethesda – The Real Dangers of Flip-Flops

Pedorthic Association of Canada – Children Shouldn’t Flip-Flop Their Way Through Summer

Madison Sports Injury Clinic – The Risk of Wearing Flip-Flops

Statista – Flip-Flop Market Value Worldwide

Additional Resources

For additional information, Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following articles:

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