Flip Flops: Friend or Foe
As the weather gets warmer open toed shoes and flip flops start to come out. It is a nice way to get rid of the sock tan that you may have or prevent your feet from sweating in your shoes during the 90 degree heat. Although it may feel good at the time, shoes can contribute to health and whole-body wellness or to misery and musculoskeletal complaints. Usually when people put on their shoes they try to think about what they will be doing that day, but they don’t always think about what they are doing to their body.
Improper footwear can lead to degenerative changes in the muscles, joints and connective tissues in the feet. Your gait, joint movement, blood circulation, and proprioceptive input could suffer when the body’s foundation is compromised. Not only does all this stuff take place in your foot, but it starts to work its way up the chain to the knee, hip, pelvis, low back, etc. Low back pain can be caused by poor mechanics in the foot. If the joints in the foot cannot move properly, proper shock absorption won’t be able to take place. This causes more stress to be placed on the medial knee joint and cause early degenerative changes to take place there. In the low back, the muscles will have to work harder on the side where the improper mechanics are taking place which will want to pull the spine harder to that side. This is why it is important to take a whole body approach when addressing a problem.
Assessing a patients’ feet and shoes can help us to determine if that is the source of the problem. Wear patterns on the bottom of the shoes is a good indicator of how a person walks. Proper footwear should provide support, protection and cushioning. If a persons’ shoe doesn’t have one of these it can cause abnormal stresses. Shoes and flip flops should support all 3 arches of the foot. The first arch are the medial longitudinal, which is made up by the calcaneus, the talus, the navicular, the three cuneiforms, and the first, second and third metatarsals. It is the highest arch in the foot. The second arch is the lateral longitudinal, which is made up of calcaneus, the cuboid, and the fourth and fifth metatarsals. Lastly we have the anterior transverse arch, which runs across the balls of the toes. It helps form the dome. If an arch has dropped, a customized orthotic could be built to support the arch.
Traditional flip flops can be the most damaging to the foot. They are flat, which offers very little support or cushioning to the foot. Rates of heel pain, frequently due to plantar fasciitis, rise in the spring as people who wear flip flops quit wearing their winter shoes. The problem is heightened when the paint is overweight or sedentary. Traditional flip flops also can alter gait, which can in turn result in problems and pain up the kinetic chain.
When choosing your summer footwear, choose wisely, as it is critical to your health. If you have supportive footwear, it gives the body a healthy, solid foundation that is less likely to experience biomechanical problems and can be more receptive to chiropractic care. Just because traditional flip flops are bad doesn’t mean you cannot wear flip flops. There are flip flops that can be customized to your foot to allow for proper support. So not only can you still get the sun on your feet, but you will have the proper support when doing it. If you have any questions about if your shoes or flip flops are right for your foot, don’t hesitate to ask your chiropractor.
Cory T. O’Lear-Zebroski, D.C.