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Flip flops leave feet prone to injury

Flip-flops are part of the uniform of summer, but they might be killer on feet. (AP/Andre Penner)

WASHINGTON — They are the unofficial footwear of summer. But those flip flops could be doing a real number on your feet.

“Flip flops are more dangerous than traditional sandals and traditional shoes for a number of reasons,” says Dr. Lee Firestone, a podiatrist with Foot and Ankle Specialists of the Mid-Atlantic.

He says these flimsy minimalist sandals leave the toes especially exposed to injury — the kinds of injuries he sees most Mondays at his practice in the Washington, D.C. area. 

“I find that people come in on Monday morning with a toenail that is half on and half off because they have caught it on something over the weekend,” he says, adding “they have layers of tape and band-aids holding the toenail in place, with a level of desperation on their faces.”

The other well-documented problem with flip flops is they don’t provide much in the way of support, leaving those who wear them on a regular basis more prone to problems like Achilles tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis — the most common cause of heel pain.

Children are at greater risk of injury from flip flops than adults because their feet are still growing, and their immature bones are more susceptible to stress.

Firestone says for both kids and grownups, flip flops are just fine for things like walking around a pool deck, or protecting feet in a public shower. But he warns “the longer you walk, the more stress you put on the bones and the muscles and the tendons.”

The good news is there are plenty of alternatives that look good and provide solid support. The American Podiatric Medical Association certifies footwear that is foot-friendly and has a list on its website.

Firestone says it is a great tool and says he prefers two brands of sandals in particular that he recommends to his patients: Vionic and Naot.

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