Don’t Let Flip-Flops Slow You Down
From barbecues, to pool parties, festivals, flip-flops, and ice cream: for many of us, these are part of the fun of summer. Flip-flops are synonymous with warm weather and convenience, but they can also be associated with low back pain. This is especially true if you already suffer from chronic lumbar pain tied to spinal arthritis, spondylolisthesis, sciatica or a previous injury. It’s easy to understand the appeal of flip-flops when the weather warms up as they’re quick to put on and take off, they keep your feet cool and comfortable, and they can get wet and dry off easily.
You don’t have to ditch these comfy and convenient shoes altogether. Keep reading to learn why and when you should steer clear of this casual footwear while enjoying your summer – and find out what kind of shoes may be good alternatives.
Why Flip-Flops Aren’t the Best Summer Footwear Option
A standard flip-flop offers very little arch and ankle support, provides minimal cushioning, puts you at higher risk of trips and falls, and most concerning for your low back – causes you to walk differently than you would in a regular shoe.
When walking in flip-flops, one needs to curl their toes to keep your sandals from slipping off your feet. Walking with curled toes shortens your steps and decreases the amount of time your feet are in contact with the ground. These changes to your way of walking may aggravate your lower back pain by putting unusual strain on your feet, hips and lower back muscles. Your foot contacts the ground differently in flip-flops, too, with more pressure put on the outside arches and less on the heel. This causes a slight rotation of the lower leg, which in turn changes the angle of your pelvis and prompts increased torsion of the lower spine.
Don’t Make Flip-Flops Your Primary Footwear
Flip-Flops are not great for long walks or for long-term use. One should not wear them shopping, to a festival, or to visit a theme park, or anywhere you’ll be in your feet for a long time. However, flip-flops can have legitimate uses. For instance, they’re perfect for locker rooms and showers, and even for that quick walk in the backyard or to the beach.
Listen to your Body
As soon as you begin to feel back pain while wearing flip-flops, you should stop what you’re doing. It is often a good idea to apply ice to the area, and change into more supportive shoes. The longer you keep going after pain is present, the more your body is compensating for the hurt area by putting a strain on other muscles and joints. This increases your potential for further injury. You’re also somewhat more likely to experience a dangerous fall due to the impact that your altered gait has on your stability.
There is a wide variety of supportive sandals on the market may also offer good alternatives to the flimsy flip-flop. Some sandals can mimic sneakers in the way that they securely hug your feet with comfortable straps and toe guards, a contoured footbed, actual arch supports, and heel cups. This can provide greater stability and proper alignment of your feet, knees, hips and lower back. When shopping, pay attention to how stable you are when you’re standing and walking in each pair. Are you able to walk normally? Does your foot stay connected to the sole of the shoe at all times?
For a day out, your best bet for a comfort is a running shoe or a European style cork sandal (such as a Birkenstock sandal). They will provide you with appropriate arch support and cushioning to withstand hours upon hours of standing. Consider orthotics if you have trouble finding shoes that are suited to your foot.
If you need a shoe that can get wet without getting damaged, consider a pair of trusty Crocs. While they may not be the most fashionable alternative, their non-slip, cushioned soles and heel straps are a lesser evil than the flip-flops. They too are good for short use but are not recommended for continuous wear.
While your shoes may aggravate your back pain, they may not be the cause. If your back pain persists, contact your chiropractor to get your spine and biomechanics evaluated.