Flip-flops go with summertime like hotdogs and hamburgers, badminton and beach trips. From plain rubber basics to bejeweled platforms, you’ll find them on feet everywhere throughout Fairfax County and our greater DC area. However, podiatrists like Kenneth R. Wilhelm, DPM of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center, warn our patients against spending too much time in flip-flops.

The good

There are some excellent reasons to don a pair of flip-flops. First, they provide some protection from sharp objects – shells in the sand, rocks in the park. They also provide a barrier between your skin and harmful organisms found on wet pool decks and locker rooms that cause athlete’s foot and other fungal infections.

The bad

Flip-flops literally change the way you walk. Whether you realize it or not, the shoes stay on your feet because your toes are repeatedly gripping them. That constant gripping strains the soft tissues in your feet, so we see a lot of tendinitis in flip-flop devotees. Furthermore, most flip-flops are completely flat and don’t offer any arch support, putting you at risk for arch pain and plantar fasciitis. Finally, many people shorten their stride when wearing flip-flops. This type of change in your normal gait can increase your risk of tripping and falling. Over time, such changes can also work their way up your body and cause knee or hip pain.

So yes, do wear flip-flops for short-term protection. But don’t live in them all summer. Never take a long walk, hike a mountain, do yard work, or play sports in flip-flops. Instead, choose a heftier style with good arch support. And when you shop for a pair of these summer classics, steer clear of thin-soled versions. Some brands endorsed by the American Podiatric Medical Association include Vionic and FitFlop.

For more information about healthy summer feet, tips for buying suitable footwear, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Wilhelm, visit our website or call our office in Centreville, Virginia at (703) 996-3000.

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