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Flip-flop fanatic?

Here’s how your favorite sandals could affect your foot health

By Dr. Jess Mullens

While flips-flops are a staple in nearly every south Mississippian’s wardrobe, they really should be worn sparingly. Due to the flat, minimalistic design, if flip-flops are worn too often, they can put stress on the toes, arches and heels of your feet, leading to severe foot pain and conditions like tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, hammer toes, bunions and others. 

Functionally speaking, flip-flops have only a thin strap holding the shoe to the foot, making the toes work extra hard to keep the shoes from slipping off. With continuous flip-flop wear, the toes can become over-used, and the repetitive gripping action can trigger tendonitis. 

Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendons and connective muscles. This condition not only can be painful, but if left untreated, it can lead to tears or ruptures in the tendons. Another potential side effect of too much flip-flop wear is hammer toe, a condition in which the joints in the toes contract and leave the toes bent in abnormal positions. Toes with this condition can result in new bunions and/or worsening of existing ones. 

While flip-flops typically are designed to be lightweight, flexible and flat, the lack of support can cause substantial pain. A thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the ball and creates the arch of your foot. Continued lack of support to the arch can lead to inflammation in that band of tissue and cause plantar fasciitis. Not only can plantar fasciitis cause arch pain, but if left untreated, the foot actually can begin to flatten out over time. 

Still want those flip-flops? I feel you. If possible, buy higher quality flip-flops made with soft leather, less bend and more support. You also should check the fit to ensure your toes and heels aren’t hanging off the edges. 

Finally, the more straps, the better. Like anything else, moderation is key. Of course, any symptoms that cause you concern, don’t hesitate to seek professional care from a foot specialist. 

Dr. Jess Mullens is an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist with Bienville Orthopaedic Specialists. Reach him at (228) 230-BONE (2663). 

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