Are Flip-Flops Bad for Your Feet?   
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Are Flip-Flops Bad for Your Feet?

Man walking along the beach in flip flops.
In the warmer months, flip-flops are a go-to choice of footwear. But did you know that wearing them too much can cause painful injuries and potentially long-term damage to your feet?

Some Flip-flops Can Be Dangerous to Wear for Long Periods

Flip-flops may protect you from everyday dangers, like super-hot sand or broken glass at pools and beaches. But many of these sandals consist of very lightweight materials that offer little to no support when you’re walking long distances or running. Over time, this can lead to stress fractures—a small crack or severe bruising within a bone—due to overuse and repetitive activity. People that suffer from osteoporosis or other diseases that weaken the bones are at greater risk for getting an injury.

“During the summer months, we typically see an increase in foot injuries because people are either wearing flip-flops way too often, or they’re wearing them for activities that really require a protective shoe,” says Larry Bloomstein, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Bayshore Medical Center and Riverview Medical Center.

Can flip-flops cause an infection?

Flip-flops and open sandals can expose your feet to bacterial or fungal infections if you wear them out in public. “The rubber and plastic used in flip-flops can be bacteria magnets,” says foot and ankle surgeon Christina Sawires, D.P.M. “And fungus thrives in warm, moist environments—so if you’re wearing your flip-flops at the beach or pool, you increase your risk of a fungal infection.” With flip-flops, because only a thin rubber strap holds your shoe and your foot together, your foot is constantly moving and your toes rubbing together. “That can lead to irritation and blisters,” says Dr. Sawires.

To protect your feet from infection or blisters:

  • Keep your feet clean and dry.
  • Replace low-quality flip-flops regularly.
  • Make sure your flip-flops are sized correctly.

Wearing the Right Footwear

Choosing footwear can be a difficult balance of style and comfort. Many people during the warmer months wear flip-flops when they should really be opting for a sneaker or other more protective shoe. Dr. Bloomstein says people should think twice about wearing flip-flops while:
  • Riding a bicycle, skateboard, scooter or other non-motorized vehicle
  • Hiking or climbing
  • Playing any kind of sports
  • Driving a car
  • Moving across wet or loose surfaces

Are flats or ballet shoes OK?

Bad news. Flats and ballet shoes also do a poor job of supporting and protecting your feet, but don’t throw out your favorite pair just yet! Many orthotics companies make a clear gel insole that fits perfectly inside of your flats and provides just the right amount of cushioning. Look for a pair that has a good amount of padding on the ball of the foot.

What should you do if you have foot pain?

If you are feeling pain in the ball or heel of your foot while wearing flip-flops, flats or ballet shoes, stop wearing them immediately and switch to a more supportive sneaker or shoe, says Dr. Bloomstein.

See your doctor as soon as possible if the pain continues for more than a couple weeks or prevents you from doing normal activities. Ignoring the pain can have serious consequences and could lead to a more severe injury, longer recovery times and even surgery.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care. 



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