Are my Flip Flops causing my foot pain? At this time of year patients will start complaining of sore feet, tight shins and painful calves. And because the weather is improving and the sun is shining I ask if they’ve been wearing flip flops. It’s no surprise wearing flip flops is related to discomfort in the lower limbs as arch support and shock absorption are minimal. The foot is made up of 28 bones, 30 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. These all work together to provide support, balance and mobility, but they need looking after too.
So why are flip flops causing sore feet and calves?
Lack of Arch Support:
Flip Flops rarely provide support to the Plantar Fascia. This is the thick band of connective tissue along the sole of your foot. It connects the heel to the ball of foot. Due to the lack of support, the plantar fascia can become inflamed and the arches of the feet start to tighten. This can be very painful.
Flip Flops don’t hold your feet in place very well. Constant movement of the feet and sweating skin can cause blisters to form. Common flip flop blister sites are between the big toe and second toe, and on the ball of foot.
Flip Flops have minimal shock absorption so it’s the bones in your feet that absorb the majority of the impact of each step. Wearing Flip Flops repetitively could lead to bone injury in the feet such as stress fractures. If you can feel the ground beneath your Flip Flop then there isn’t enough cushioning providing shock absorption to your feet.
Altered Gait When Walking:
Keeping a Flip Flop on your foot means constant gripping of your toes. These muscles are made up of long tendons, most of which originate in the lower limb. This is why the shin and calf become painful over time. The tendons are over-used to keep your Flip Flop on your foot. Because of this you also subtly alter your gait when walking by shortening your stride. This can cause problems in the ankle, knees, hips or back.
How To Resolve Flip Flop Foot:
If your Flip Flops are causing you shin or calf pain, tightness in the sole of the foot or Achilles tendon, then you can try the following stretches to the lower limb muscles. You can also roll the sole of the foot with a massage ball to ease tension in the Plantar Fascia.
Calves and Soleus Plantar Fascia Plantar Fascia Rolling
Also wear your Flip Flops in moderation and avoid wearing them if you will be standing all day or doing lots of walking. Try to buy sensible ones, look for a solid sole, a heel cup, and moulded support for the arch of the foot. Also are the straps made of breathable material such as leather or material, rather than plastic.
And when the sun starts to shine, gradually start to wear them so your feet and body can adapt to them slowly. This will reduce the risk of summer footwear injury!
Written by Rhea Malkin BSc (Hons) Sports Therapist MSST and STOTT/APPI Pilates Instructor.