So, bearer of bad news that I am, I must declare that from this day forward flip flops should not be considered a casual shoe to wear about! You might love them, you might wear them everyday, and you might put your kids in them. I know they are inexpensive and oh-so-easy to slip on. BUT the problem is that they do not attach to the top or back of your foot. So the only way your foot can keep them on is for your big toe and second toe to grab and hang on for dear life. Take a picture of yourself walking, or watch while someone else walks. Every step requires that clench.
The picture shown is a fellow jumping, but you can see his future hammertoe in training. I find it fascinating that this slight movement can throw off your whole gait and even affect how you stand. These shoes really should only be worn to and from the pool or shower. Wearing flip flops throughout the day will cause pain in the knees, hips, and low back. If you wear them chronically, you might just be used to how they make you feel. If you wear them periodically, see if you notice the pain that starts in your knees and works its way up. This will be especially hard on children because they are in the years that form their body mechanics for the rest of their lives. If you are already experiencing this pain, take another look at your feet to see what shoes you are wearing.
So I guess since I’m in the Yoga biz and massage biz it’s actually ok to wear your flip flops, go ahead wear them all the time. Not really, I was just kidding, crazy!
What, you might ask, would I wear instead? Well the bad news is again, slip-ons won’t do you any favors either because you need that back strapped on. Last summer I bought my pair of Unshoes, and I am never going back! These shoes are so amazing because they have A through H templates that you can print off so that your shoes will match your foot shape exactly. They have sleek sandals that are so minimal the only way to have less shoe would be to walk around barefoot (which is a good idea when and where you can manage). They’re even working on a feminine footwear line so you can actually feel comfy and cute. Bio-mechanist Katy Bowman discusses more footwear options on her blog.
So mostly, what I am finding in my foot studies is that the foot needs to be left alone. With minimal footwear you really allow your foot to take charge and become stronger out of necessity. I’m finding that while arch support might feel like it is supporting your foot, it is actually weakening those structures (or making them dependent (or not even supporting the arch in the right spot if they are necessary). Also, heeled shoes are only going to give you more problems (check out @balancedbodiesyoga Instagram for a wonderful calf stretch to benefit our heeled populace). I know there’s so much to change and it may feel like you’re doing everything wrong, but these Unshoes coupled with calf stretches are great place to start. AND if these things make you feel better then it’s worth your efforts, friend!
In short, shoes should:
- Attach to the back of your foot
- Attach to the top of your foot
- Allow the toes to wiggle
- Be as flat as possible without ANY positive heel
Shoes should not:
- Have a heel
- Squeeze your toes
- Make your toes squeeze together to keep the shoe on
- Inhibit ankle movement
- Be ugly