Flip-flops are your arch enemy

Out comes the sun, out come the flip-flops and out come the foot problems.

Flip-flops, available in a rainbow of colours for as little as a toonie, are the biggest cause of foot problems in the summer, says Vancouver podiatrist Dr. Roy Matthews.

“The first thing we say is, ‘get out of those flip-flops,’” he said Tuesday.

“Flip-flops are meant for going to the beach, going to a pool, going to a barbecue. They’re not meant for going for a long walk . . . They’re not meant for wearing all day at work. Get a supportive sandal with cork in the arch if you want to wear an open shoe during the summer.”

Flip-flops are generally devoid of cushioning and arch support. Worst of all, Matthews said, wearers need to use “nasty hammer toes” to hold on, because the shoes lack straps over the feet.

The most common flip-flop related ailment is called plantar fasciitis – basically, heel pain caused by lack of support in the arch, Matthews said.

In the worst-case scenarios, flip-flops can trigger problems requiring custom orthotics or even surgery to correct.

Flip-flops aren’t just bad for your feet, he said. They can affect your posture, and cause problems with your ankles, knees, hips, back and even neck.

“It works all the way up, and it’s just from lack of support,” he said.

A study by researchers at Alabama’s Auburn University that found flip-flops can affect the whole “kinetic chain” of the human body.

Researchers found that people in flip-flops shorten their strides, strike the ground with less force and need to use different toe muscles to grip the shoe.

“Walking is a very repetitive motion, and if you walk a lot, those little changes could increase exponentially,” chief researcher Justin Shroyer said.

Flip-flop wearers need to replace the shoes when they’re worn, and limit the activities they wear them for, said Shroyer, who admits he sometimes wears flip-flops.

“We’re not saying that they’re horrible and never wear them, but use them for what they’re designed, and when they’re broken down, get a new pair.”

Sandy Branchflower of North Vancouver loves her flip-flops. She has more than a dozen pairs.

Relaxing on Kitsilano Beach Tuesday, Branchflower said she wears the simple sandals all year long – and the only ones that hurt her feet are her jewel-encrusted pair.

“They feel like summer,” she said, adding that flip-flops have been her standard footwear, even for work, ever since the weather turned warmer.

“Everything is bad for you these days,” Branchflower said when told of the dire warnings from podiatrists.

It will take more than such cautions to get Branchflower or her friend and fellow beach-goer Lindsay Northcott out of their favourite footwear.

“I’ve travelled and worn them for months and months straight. You get used to them,” Northcott said.