Flip-flops

Q: Flip-flops are trendy—but are they good for growing feet?

Flip-flops should only be worn around the pool or in the shower to avoid fungal infections—not for extended walking. Overuse of flip-flops can lead to tendonitis, arch pain, stress fractures or plantar fasciitis, a chronic inflammation of the connective tissue extending from the heel bone to the toes. Non-supportive footwear, especially paper-thin flip-flops, can accentuate any abnormal biomechanics in foot motion. In our practice, we’re seeing a rise in heel pain complaints among teens and tweens, the age group most likely to wear flip-flops for long periods of time.

The most important property to look for when choosing a shoe or sandal is rigidity in the sole. The sole should only bend at the ball of the foot. Thicker, more rigid soles are better. Look for arch support and a heel cup built into the sandal or flip-flop—avoid soles that are completely flat. Platform or high-heeled flip-flops are unstable and can lead to sprained or fractured ankles if someone falls or tries to run in them.

Parents should watch to see if their child seems to grasp flip-flops or sandals with the toes. This can lead to hammertoe, a condition where the joint of the toe or toes actually bends or curves, giving the toe a hammer or claw-like appearance. Painful bunions or corns can result. Casual sandals with a strap over all of the toes are better than a flip-flop with a peg between the first and second toes. Ultimately, Chaco- or Teva-style sport sandals provide more support and are better for walking.

Brett Roeder, D.P.M., C.W.S., doctor of podiatry medicine at Harlan & Roeder Podiatry in Mesa.