Put up your winter boots, it’s sandal and flip flop season! April is Foot Health Awareness Month – what better time to talk about ways you can protect your feet! Believe it or not, flips flops, sandals and high heels can cause some serious damage to your toes, feet and other parts of your body.
Complications from wearing flip flops and sandals
Flip flops are a summer staple, especially in Texas, but wearing them too often can cause or worsen foot pain and soreness. When you wear flip flops, you are walking on a thin layer of flat material that doesn’t offer arch support or shock absorption. They can cause your feet to endure an extreme amount of force – and gripping with your toes can change the way your foot hits the ground when you walk. For these reasons, flip flops can cause a host of problems beyond your feet, including knee pain, calf pain, and even low back pain.
One of the most common conditions caused by improper shoe wear is plantar fasciitis. It can develop from walking on hard surfaces, standing for long periods of time, and from the lack of arch support in flip flops and sandals. Plantar fasciitis causes pain, irritation, and discomfort on the bottom of your heel.
Proper fit is also important when discussing shoe wear. If your heels are too big, they don’t provide enough stability and can put you at risk of a sprained ankle. On the other hand, shoes that are too small can compress blood vessels and nerves and cause pain.
How to protect your feet this summer
If you want to avoid foot problems like hammertoes, bunions and plantar fasciitis, take advice from board certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Barbara Bergin on how to stay pain-free and give your feet some love.
- Avoid wearing flip flops and heels for long walks and never run or jump in them.
- If possible, choose a chunkier sandal or wedge over a stiletto to provide more balance and support for your heel and ankle.
- Don’t squeeze your toes into narrow shoes, try to pick shoes with a wide toe box.
- Rest your feet when they are tired.
- Elevate your legs and feet, especially if they are swollen.
- Invest in a good foot massage and pedicure when you can.
How to treat foot pain
The good news is foot and heel pain caused by improper shoe wear usually resolves without surgery. If you are experiencing pain and soreness, try to rest and switch to a more supportive option like tennis shoes. You can also try ice, light stretching and anti-inflammatory medications if necessary. To help ease the pain on the sole of your foot, our physical therapists recommend rolling a tennis ball or lacrosse ball on the bottom of your foot to stretch out the tissue. If pain persists, our foot and ankle specialists can provide a thorough examination to rule out tendon or ligament injuries, arthritis, or other lower extremity conditions.