Person's feet in flip-flops on sandy beach 1
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Flip-flops make up a quintessential part of the summer wardrobe. They come in a variety of prices and styles, from $5 slices of neon foam to luxury footwear made of hand-crafted leather.

Many people enjoy flip-flops because they take only a moment to slip on and off, and they provide hot feet with plenty of breathing room.

“Even though flip-flops offer convenience and comfort, you don’t want to wear them every day. The flip-flops are too delicate for heavy use and can’t provide the support your feet need.”

It is important to wear flip-flops in moderation. If you wear flip-flops, your feet may get sore. Over time, flip-flops may change the way you walk.

Learn how flip-flops affect your feet and how to pick a good pair.

If you need to dip outside to grab a newspaper or take a pizza, flip-flops can be used. The flip-flops are ideal for the beach because they are easy to clean and quick to dry.

If you have to choose between flip-flops and barefoot, shoes of any kind are safer.

Protect your feet

You run the risk of being barefoot outside.

  • stepping on sharp objects.
  • burning your feet on concrete
  • blisters or rash from rough surfaces
  • developing a bacterial or fungal infection, especially in areas with standing water

Wearing flip-flops in public showers, like at gyms or university dorms, can also help you protect your feet from common infections.

Some situations call for sturdier shoes, while others call for flip-flops. You will want to grab more supportive footwear.

Walking long distances

“Most flip-flops can not go the distance. Their thin, flimsy platforms don’t offer much shock absorption and they don’t provide arch support.”

You will likely notice your feet are hurting after a trek in flip-flops.

Playing sports

“It is hard to run and jump in flip-flops. The loose fit makes them prone to flying in the air when trying to kick a ball. If you don’t keep your shoe on and connect with the ball, you may ruin your toes.”

Most flip-flops don’t offer much traction on the ground, either. If you slip, the shoe’s lack of structure can make it easier to twist or sprain your ankle.

It is always a good idea to wear closed-toe shoes for sports and other outdoor activities, just like it is for gym class.

Driving

According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, you may want to take your flip-flops off before getting behind the wheel. Thin flip-flops can bend and get stuck under the brake pedal, making it hard to stop your car in time.

You might find that your foot keeps slipping off the pedals, which is a problem if you have wet flip-flops.

A crash can happen even a second after you drive your car. It is generally your safest option to wear closed-heel footwear.

Too much time in flip-flops can cause a number of foot issues.

Blisters

When you slide your feet into a flip-flop, the skin on your toes may rub against the strap. If your feet are sweaty or wet, this moisture and friction can form the perfect recipe for blisters.

Blisters between your toes can prove tricky to treat. Your toes naturally rub together when you walk, and sometimes sports tape or bandages can increase the friction. If your blisters keep opening back up, they can take an annoyingly long time to heal.

You may have more luck preventing blisters from appearing in the first place if you limit flip-flops.

Heel pain

Your plantar fascia is a ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel to your toes. When your plantar fascia tears, it can cause pain in your heel called plantar fasciitis.

“It’s possible that flip-flops can make plantar fasciitis more likely. Here is why.”

  • The strap needs to be held on by your toes. This may cause the ankle to tighten.
  • When you step down, your foot flattens more than usual. This can cause the ligament to stretch.
  • When you take a step, your foot is on the ground. Without cushion to help the strike, the tissue around your foot absorbs the force of the impact.

These shoes are better for people with plantar fasciitis.

Sprained ankles

Your ankles tend to roll more when you wear flip-flops. For short periods, this change in gait probably won’t pose a serious concern. But over time, your ankles may grow less steady, making them more vulnerable to sprains.

Shin splints

If you wore more supportive footwear, the muscles in the front of your leg would work harder.

Overusing these muscles can cause them to develop tiny tears and become painfully inflamed. This leads to medial tibial stress syndrome, commonly called shin splints.

Some flip-flops are less likely to cause injury than others.

For example, some flip-flops have more of a T-shape than the classic V, with straps that circle your foot near the ankle. Research from 2014 suggests these T-shape flip-flops can offer a little more ankle stability because at least the front part of your ankle is supported.

The sandals that circle the back of your ankle will provide even more stability.

You may want to check out the footbed if you decide to buy. Extra padding and arch support are included in some flip-flops. These styles can help prevent heel pain, but they may cost more than generic flat flip-flops.

Flip-flops vs. slides

“The slide is the flip-flops sibling shoe and has a strap that goes across your foot. You might wonder if slides are better for your feet since they don’t have a grip on your toes.”

But a 2013 study suggests there’s not much difference between flip-flops and slides. Researchers found that both shoes had virtually identical effects on gait. They did find that flip-flops prompted people to step down a little more quickly, but even that difference remained comparatively small.

Experts have also found little difference between flip-flops and Croc slip-ons. According to two separate studies, Crocs didn’t appear to offer any advantages in walking pace or balance, though they do provide toe coverage.

They are not suitable for physical activity, even though they offer convenience, comfort, and even style for your feet. If you wear them too frequently, your feet and legs may start to ache.

You probably want to reserve flip-flops for taking out the trash, showering at the gym, or wading at the beach. You should grab sturdier shoes for anything more strenuous.


Emily Swaim is a freelance health writer and editor who specializes in psychology. She has a BA in English from Kenyon College and an MFA in writing from California College of the Arts. In 2021, she received her Board of Editors in Life Sciences (BELS) certification. You can find more of her work on GoodTherapy, Verywell, Investopedia, Vox, and Insider. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.