Are Flip Flops Bad For Your Feet?
Are you searching for bunion pain relief from wearing flip-flops all day? If so, you are not alone. Millions of Americans suffer from foot and ankle related issues because of the shoes they’re wearing. Especially here in San Diego where flip-flops are the norm, we see this often. Not only can wearing flip flops cause pain, but they can eventually lead to a lack of proper mobility of your feet.
So is wearing flip flops everyday bad for your feet? The answer is yes, and one of the most common problems we see at Catalyst is bunion growth due to daily flip flop wearing. In addition, while some of these problems from wearing flip flops all day long require surgery or drugs, many of them can be addressed with less invasive care. Below we’ll break down the science behind it all, along with at-home tips for how to get your feet back in shape!
What Problems Do Flip Flips Create
First, what exactly is a bunion and why does wearing flip flops create one? A bunion is a condition that is caused by the big toe angling away from your body towards the 2nd toe. The fancy medical term we use for a bunion is hallux valgus, which translates to an “increased toe angle.”
Once the toe starts to angle away from your body, your body enters a protection phase by increasing the production of bone and soft tissue around the joint. In the early stages, this leads to a purely cosmetic issue around the toe knuckle without pain. In the later stages, patients can complain that the area is painful to touch and even hurts while walking.
What Causes Bunions?
While the bunion manifests itself in your toe, the actual root of the problem could be higher up in your body. Wearing flip flops as your daily shoe can create dysfunction in your ankles, knees, and hips. Therefore, as a result of these dysfunctions, the body compensates for every step you take.
In the physical therapy world, our fancy term for how you walk is “gait pattern.” During optimal walking, your big toe is the last part of your foot to leave the ground. With a perfect gait pattern, your big toe is like a bowstring during these final moments. Fully taught ready to spring you forward.
However, in people with bunions, the midfoot begins to collapse due to weak hip muscles. These weak muscles are unable to control the motion of the leg below. Instead, you push off the inside of your foot like an ice skate, rather than letting your big toe spring you forward. By taking the recommended 10,000 steps each day, and in shoes that offer little to no support, like flip flops, you can quickly see how your foot structure will change to compensate.
Flip Flops and Foot Pain
Still not quite certain that flip-flops could be causing these bunions? Here’s more research to prove it:
- Are Flip flops Good For Your Feet? – Southeast Orthopedic Specialists
- The Real Dangers of Flip Flops – Ortho Bethesda
- Flip flops Fun But Beware of Foot Pain – WebMD
- Flip flops, A Total Flop for Your Feet– Holland Hospital
Six Steps To Prevent Foot Pain and Provide Pain Relief
Here are a few quick things you can change right now to help prevent a bunion from occurring or for bunion pain relief:
1. Stop Wearing Flip flops All Day Long!
Instead of flip flops, buy some fun slip-on sneakers. The wider toe box allows your foot to splay on the ground the way it was meant to. If you’re still not certain if flip flops are bad to wear all day, even after reading the research, try swapping them out for sneakers on your walks. Heading to the beach? Wear sneakers and toss your flip flops in your bag!
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Staying in that healthy weight range for your age not only helps you with bunion pain relief, it also reduces your risk of heart attack and high blood pressure. Plus, it will make you feel good and give you more energy!
3. Exercise regularly
Get into the habit of exercising and adding more movement to your daily routine. Even if its just 30 minutes a day of brisk walking. Remember, walk in your sneakers and not your flip flops.
4. Get fitted for orthotics
Orthotics can be helpful to not only support your feet properly but also keep them in the proper alignment when running, walking, or hiking. In addition, our foot care department at Catalyst PT & Wellness can provide custom orthotic prescriptions!
Fill out our request form now, or call us at 619-501-2195 for an appointment.
5. Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is one of the oldest medical practices still around today. We’ve adapted this Eastern medicine into our routine care and offer several types of massage- sports, deep tissue, neuromuscular, prenatal, and even chair massages. In addition, many of our massage therapists see patients that suffer from foot pain due to wearing flip flops all day.
6. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation
As with most common injuries, the tried and true method of R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) will help alleviate foot and ankle pain due to wearing flip flops. As an example, a warm soak with Epsom salts or an ice pack in the evening will bring foot pain relief.
Additional Treatments For Flip Flop Wearers
The quick fix for a bunion as a result of wearing flip flops is a surgery known as a bunionectomy. During the surgical procedure, the bone and soft tissue on the big toe is cut out and the big toe is reset into position. Besides dealing with post-surgical pain, recovery can last anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months.
Unfortunately, the success rate of these surgeries is mixed. The bunion is not the actual problem, but rather the area in the body that is compensating for the problem. If you’re still wearing flip flops post-surgery, your feet will continue to work in the same way. Therefore, we have seen bunions re-develop after surgery. The cause of the foot pain or bunion is never addressed and you end up back where you started.
Physical Therapy treatment involves assessing your walking mechanics. First, we identify the contributors altering your foot and ankle mechanics. We watch you walk in your shoes or flip flops. Often we find imbalances in muscles and joints of your hip, knees, ankles, and even your core muscles!
Second, we teach you about strengthening and stretching techniques. Third, we have you move in functional patterns. This allows your body to incorporate your new strength and range of motion into daily life.
Not sure if flip flops are causing your injury? Or if your foot pain can be treated with physical therapy? This is why we offer free injury screenings. An injury screen is a quick, 15-minute video or in-person chat that can allow a doctor of physical therapy to assess your signs/symptoms.
If your therapist determines your symptoms stem from an orthopedic issue like wearing those flip flops all day, together you can discuss which course of action will work best for you. Whether it’s telehealth or in-person PT appointments, we can help you get your body back in action. Fill out our request form, or call us at 619-501-2195 to book an appointment.
If we haven’t convinced you yet, wearing flip flops all day long is bad for your feet. The constant pain you develop as a result is not only uncomfortable, but it can also make it harder to do the things you love- run, jump, play with your little ones. Spend a little time taking care of your feet now, and you’ll be pain-free for years to come.
Looking for more information about foot and ankle health? Check out our Foot and Ankle Guide.