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Can flip flops ever be considered to be supportive footwear?

flip flops
Dr. Gillian Aldous
Foot Notes

YES! Today’s daytime high temperature may be -21C but within a few weeks, it will be summer! Between now and then, the lucky minority of Winnipeggers may be spending some time in warmer temperatures. One of the things we want when this happens? Comfortable summer shoes.

I am not a fan of flips flops and sandals. 

“But, Dr. Aldous, it’s so cold through winter and we’re stuck in winter boots for so long, it’s so lovely to feel the air on our feet.”

“It’s ok to say we should wear supportive footwear, but in summer my feet sweat so much.”

These comments are true. However, I am still of the opinion that if you are walking a reasonable distance, or if you have issues with your feet and walking, then wearing supportive footwear and the recommended insole or orthotic is the best option. Yes, your feet may be warm, but these items can prevent fatigue, and callus, and pain.

So, while remembering this, what options do we have for summer footwear?

Flip flops have been around for many years (Ancient Egyptians were among the first to wear them).The greatest problem with this very simple footwear is that although it does offer basic protection from hazards on the ground (stones, sharps, heat) it does not support the foot. Many people find it very difficult to walk in flip flops. They can develop heel pain, shin splints and other problems. There is usually greater callus build up when they are worn a lot. 

However, we want to wear them! So, modern manufacturers have changed some things:

The sole: The sole has become more shaped and supportive for the foot. The sole shape can be compared to an orthotic, the heel is cupped (concave), there is arch support on the inside long arch, there is sometimes some support across the forefoot, under the digits. This shape will help hold the foot in a better position, and with less movement reduce some of the problems with prolonged wear.

The sole materials: This is choice and how we use the product. Some soles are firm. Some have gone for a very soft material. This will determine how comfortable the flip flops are to each individual.

There are several good manufacturers of flip flops. There are the respected athletic shoe producers, Merrell and New Balance. Other good makers include Birkenstock, Vionic and Aetrex. You may need more than one style of flip flop, depending on how long you want to wear them. (What’s the occasion? Going to the beach, or supper? Or walking for a morning?) It is better to wear a variety of different footwear (not the same shoes every day).

Anyway, remember these products are generic. They are not a custom device designed for you, and some are going to suit you better than others. Take time considering them and remember there are other factors to consider than how cute they look.

Gillian Aldous is a podiatrist working at the Madison Square Orthorehab Clinic.

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