Dr Sean Ng, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Gleneagles Hospital
Dr David Su, orthopaedic specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital
They are an easy alternative on lazy weekends and beach holidays, but are flip flops doing your feet any favours?
The main problem with flip flops lie in the open nature of its design, says Dr David Su. There is no support for the arch of the foot and a lack of coverage for the mid foot and fore foot. “Flip flops offer absolutely no support for the feet, and overuse can lead to problems,” says Dr Sean Ng. The doctors cite five commonly-seen problems of wearing the flimsy footwear.
1. Recurring pain or discomfort
Do you sometimes feel a stabbing pain in the sole of your feet when you get up from a seated position or take your first few steps in the morning? That may be a sign of plantar fasciitis, a condition characterised by pain or swelling in the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs across the sole of the foot and connects your heel bone to the base of your toes. While the pain may go away during the day, it can recur when you get up from a position of rest.
Other common problems include heel pain or even more serious conditions like ligament injuries, sprained ankles or fractures.
2. Tripping and falling
Even sandals offer better protection than flip flops. Besides a lack of cushioning or protection, the absence of a strap around the ankle can lead to slippages and falls or accidents when a person trips, explains Dr Su.
3. Affects your posture
Dr Ng warns that if you have existing pain or injuries in the feet, wearing flip flops for extended periods may cause more joint pain and even lead to postural problems.
4. Exposure to fungal growth and bacteria
There is an increased risk of fungal growth and bacteria as your feet is exposed to the elements. So avoid flip flops if you have cuts or open wounds, or have a pre-existing illness like diabetes, which may make you more prone to infection.
5. Worsens existing health conditions
“For patients who are overweight or have wear and tear in the tendons of the foot, this lack of support can lead to increased damage in the tendons and joints of the foot,” says Dr Su. It may also not be suitable for people with flat feet, given its lack of arch support and cushioning, although it depends on the nature or anatomical structure of the patient’s flat feet, says Dr Ng.
Doctors’ shoe shopping tips
Always wear well-fitting shoes that are tailored to the activity you are doing. For example, people with bunions or swelling on the first joint of the big toe should avoid wearing high heels and closed-toe or pointy shoes. “If you are going for a run, wear shoes that are meant for running. When playing basketball, wear shoes that provide ankle stability and has good shock absorbers,” says Dr Ng.
So what’s a good alternative to flip flops? Dr Su recommends sandals with a raised arch for better support; plus, they are casual and comfortable too.