What To Wear…Shoes, Flip-Flops, or Barefoot?

There are many of us who wonder about the benefits of walking barefoot versus wearing proper footwear. Humans should be able to function barefoot from birth until death, (barring some birth defect, infection, or trauma of course), though sadly many people are unable to run, walk, or even stand for even a few minutes barefoot without discomfort, pain, or general uneasiness (Sock Doc).  During the summer, it can be enticing to go barefoot. But, many do not realize the impact they are making on their overall health. Customers come into our store asking us what are the advantages and disadvantages to walking barefoot, wearing flip-flops, and supportive footwear. There’s no significant benefit to walking and running barefoot or in flip-flops.  “’Flip-flops are not designed for prolonged use or for walking long distances,” said Justin F. Shroyer. “They lack the support that a walking or running shoe provides. Flip-flops should only be worn casually and for shorter periods of time. They probably should also not be a primary footwear choice,'” (American College of Sports Medicine). Flip-flops lack support and can make your body work harder than it should. People who favor flip-flops as their primary footwear option during warm summer months may experience lower leg pain and a change in their stride, according to research presented today at the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis.”

We have more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments in our feet. Tendons are fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones and ligaments are fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones. These components work together to keep your arch high and hold your bones together. It’ important to note that your feet have a huge ligament called the plantar fascia, which needs to be supported with an orthotic.

There are times when you’re walking that the pressure on your feet exceeds your body weight, and when you’re running, it can be three or four times your weight. As more avid runners and casual athletes experiment with barefoot running, doctors say they are treating injuries ranging from pulled calf muscles to Achilles tendinitis to metatarsal stress fractures, mainly in people who ramped up too fast. In serious cases, they are laid up for several months (Huffington Post).

With most of society wearing footwear that includes very flat sandals on hard and flat “manmade” surfaces (concrete or asphalt etc…), there’s no wonder we see a lot of people come in to our store with sore and painful feet during the summer! Some may wonder that if I wasn’t born with shoes or supports strapped to my feet then why humans would need to wear them now.  I’d say “You’re right! But wasn’t it man who made asphalt and concrete? Those surfaces aren’t forgiving, so guess what has to take the fault? Our feet!

The arch is your natural shock absorber, it is meant to give and spring your step. When we go barefoot or wear sandals, we are making our feet work overtime! And what happens when the arch gives up and falls? Slap, slap, slap… that is the sound the feet make when there isn’t any arch left! All the shock and vibrations that the feet were supposed to absorb in proper footwear and arch supports, goes up the legs (making them tired), hips, and back. “Step Shock” is the common term used for this.

So please be kind to your feet this summer and give them the support they need… and let alone deserve!

Here are some dos and don’ts provided by the American Podiatric Medical Association

  • Do shop for a flip-flop made of high-quality, soft leather. Leather minimizes the potential for blisters and other types of irritation.
  • Do gently bend the flip-flop from end to end, ensuring it bends at the ball of the foot. Shoes of any kind should never fold in half.
  • Do ensure that your foot doesn’t hang off of the edge of the flip-flop.
  • Do wear a sturdy pair of flip-flops when walking around a public pool, at the beach, in hotel rooms and in locker room areas. Walking barefoot can expose foot soles to plantar warts and athlete’s foot.
  • Don’t re-wear flip-flops year after year. Inspect older pairs for wear. If they show signs of severe wear, discard them.
  • Don’t ignore irritation between toes, where the toe thong fits. This can lead to blisters and possible infections.
  • Don’t wear flip-flops while walking long distances. Even the sturdiest flip-flops offer little in terms of shock absorption and arch support.
  • Don’t do yard work while wearing flip-flops. Always wear a shoe that fully protects feet when doing outside activities such as mowing the lawn or using a weed-eater.
  • Don’t play sports in flip-flops. This practice can lead to twisting of the foot or ankle, as well as sprains and breaks.

Sources:

http://www.apma.org/content.cfm?ItemNumber=1353

http://sock-doc.com/2012/03/healthy-people-barefoot-people/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/barefoot-running-injuries_n_1536017.html

http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/acsm-in-the-news/2011/08/01/flip-flops-heels-examined-for-performance-impact

http://www.goodfeetportland.com

 

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