Saturday, April 4, 2015

Arch, Foot, & Leg Injuries

     People who favor flip-flops as their primary footwear option may experience lower leg pain and a change in their stride, according to research presented at the 55th annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.  The study compared flip-flops to sneakers to assess the angles at which they impact the floor and the force upon contact with the ground while walking.  Researchers analyzed the gait of flip-flop wearers compared to their gait while wearing sneakers.

     By compiling the forces that the foot is exerting on the ground, they found a statistically significant decrease in the vertical (straight-down) force in flip-flop wearers.  This decreased force gives evidence that flip-flop wearers alter their normal gait and this sheds light as to why some experience lower leg pain.

     “Flip-flops are not designed for prolonged use or for walking long distances,” says Justin F. Shroyer, lead author on the study.  “They lack the support that a walking or running shoe provides.  Flip-flops should only be worn casually and for shorter periods of time.”

     Some flip-flops on the market may provide more support, but are usually more expensive.  For someone with lower-leg or foot problems, Shroyer recommends they limit their usage and choose a flip-flop with more support.

     Flip-flops should be replaced often.  Despite claims that they are the most comfortable when they are “broken in,” they should be replaced every few months just a runner would with running shoes.

     Foot-related injuries due to flip-flop wear are on the rise, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association.  “There are many flip-flops on the market that offer little to nothing in terms of arch support, stability, and shock absorption,” says the APMA’s Dr. Ross Taubman.  “Opting to wear a pair of cheaply constructed flip-flops puts the wearer at risk for injuries such as arch pain, tendonitis, and sprained ankles.”  The APMA urges wearers to select flip-flops that are made of high-quality soft leather, rather than plastic or foam.

     Poorly fitting shoes can result in debilitating consequences later in life.  We are given only one pair of feet for life and bad shoe choices will eventually take a toll on the health of our feet.

     The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends the following “don’ts” in order to reduce the risk of injury.
  1. Don’t re-wear flip-flops year after year.  Thoroughly inspect older flip-flops for wear.  If they show signs of severe wear in the soles, it’s time to discard them. 
  2. Don’t ignore irritation between toes, where the toe thong fits—this can lead to blisters and even worse irritation. 
  3. Don’t wear flip-flops while walking long distances.  Even the sturdiest flip-flop offers little in terms of shock absorption and arch support. 
  4. Don’t do yard work while wearing flip-flops.  Always wear a shoe that fully protects the foot when doing outside activities like mowing the lawn or using a weed-eater.
  5.  Don’t ever play sports in flip-flops.  You can easily twist your foot or ankle, leading to sprains or breaks.

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