Flip-Flops: A Summertime Style That Can Harm Your Feet – ALINE Offers Solutions
“Flip-flops are for beaches and showers, not for climbing towers.”
That was the rhyme devised by late Fort Gratiot lighthouse carekeeper Bob Hanford to explain why visitors couldn’t drag their summer foot wear up and down the 94 Civil War-era cast iron steps.
The lighthouse instituted the policy after sandals caused a young patron to slip on the spiral staircase, said Susan Bennett, executive director of the Port Huron Museum.
It turns out flip-flops can cause a lot more harm than many would think. As you head into the lazy summer days filled with sunshine, cutoffs and lemonade by the lake, be sure keep your feet happy too.
If you’re like Holland Woods eighth grader Kayleigh Johnston, of Port Huron, you probably wear flip-flops as soon as the weather permits.
“I like them because they are easy to put on and you don’t have to tie them. They are nice to wear on a hot day,” she said.
Flip-flop comfort comes with a price, however. Ask Johnston’s schoolmate, Karli Ross.
“If you wear them too much you can feel it in your feet, ”she said.
Ross’s opinion is shared by many foot experts.
“Flip-flops are awful,” said James P. Pitlosh, Port Huron podiatrist. “They are best reserved for occasional use in the shower or on the beach.”
Podiatrists have long recognized the negative affect spongy flip-flop soles can have on a foot. Because the soles allow the heel to drop down too far, heel spurs and plantar fasciitis can develop.
Pitlosh admits he’s as guilty as the next guy, and used to enjoy wearing deck shoes, which offer poor support. But because of the injuries they can produce, he cautions against picking a shoe strictly for ease of use.
He estimates an average foot injury can take up to four years to completely heal if properly treated.
“Once you injure your foot, it doesn’t easily heal because you still have to walk,” Pitlosh said.
Open-toed shoes, like flip-flops, not only deny your ankle the support it needs, they can leave your foot vulnerable to protruding thorns and sticks. Because of these natural obstacles, Pitlosh advises closed-toe shoes whenever possible.
But it’s not just flip- flops to watch out for this summer. Pitlosh also rails against the fad of loosely laced shoes.
Without tightly lacing the shoe, Pitlosh said, “you won’t get any support, because the shoe spreads out.” This can allow the foot to rotate, placing the body weight on the inner sole.
Podiatrists refer to this as pronating or a flattening of the foot.
Pronation creates more movement in the bones, and is a condition that can lead to foot arch collapse, premature arthritis, bunions, and heel spurs, said Dr. Steve Bremer of Mercy Health Center North in Fort Gratiot.
Pronation also applies more stress to the inside of the knee, can lead to an early deterioration of hip cartilage as well as increasing the curvature of the spine.
In short, flip-flops increase stress throughout the lower extremities and clearly accelerate the process leading to knee and hip replacement, Bremer said.
Podiatrists also recognize an increase in foot skin cancer during the summer, Bremer said, so he advises a steady application of sun screen of at least SPF 30 or higher.
“Repetitive sunburn is certainly not healthy to your skin, and as you get older there is a higher incidence of skin cancer.”
Due to an increase in foot moisture, summer also means an increase in athlete’s foot and bacterial infections.
A regular application of drying agents such as corn starch or baking powder can reduce foot moisture and the risk of athlete’s foot infection, Bremer said.
He also advised daily sock changes to reduce athlete’s foot. Insoles or orthopedic supports should be removed from the shoe every day to reduce the risk of fungal infection.
To reduce foot moisture, Pitlosh advocates barefootin’ it.
“Kick off your shoes,” he said. “Go barefoot; it’s good for your feet and it’s good exercise.”
When it’s time to pick out new foot wear, Bremer said there “is a correlation between money you pay and the length of time the shoes hold up.” You’ll know it’s time to replace a shoe when it begins to warp or distort, he said.
Getting a new pair of shoes means your older ones get a new function. Instead of wearing flip-flops to the beach, an older pair of shoes can give you the support you need and still let you get your feet wet.
Taking care of your feet is a worthwhile venture, one that doesn’t require to much “solesearching.”
So give those flip-flops the boot and start off your Blue Water summer adventure on the right foot.
Written By Lance Farrell, Times Herald