Every summer's soundtrack includes the familiar "thwack thwack" of flip-flops.
The airy sandals are comfortable for many people around the pool, on a beach trip or quick errand close to home. But wearing such flimsy footwear on a regular basis could lead to foot problems.
"They're a little bit of foam on the bottom of your foot and that's about it," said Dr. Seth Richman, an orthopedist at Novant Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine - Cornelius.
Flip-flops have expanded to year-round footwear in the temperate South, something Richman, a New York native, has grown accustomed to. He sees patients — and many of the challenges flip-flops create — throughout the year. He urges flip-flop fans to keep the following in mind.
Not very safe
"The biggest thing I see is that flip-flops aren't going to give you any protection if you stub your foot or if something drops on you," Richman said. "It's easy to get them caught and trip. And slippery surfaces are not exactly the best traction. If you're going to do biking or ride the (community) scooters we're seeing now, you can fall and get some serious road rash because there's not much protection there."
The average flip-flops are thin and flat. Women's flip-flops are notoriously slimmer than many men's versions.
"A piece of leather with maybe a rubber tread if you're lucky," Richman said. "That's basically walking barefoot. It's not giving you any support. You're going to have issues with plantar fasciitis (inflammation of tissue that stretches from the heel bone to the base of the toes). If you have issues with flat feet or high arches, you're not getting any protection from that."
Richman said flip-flops with additional arch support are available. They cost more, but the more support they provide, the better.
Not much protection
Flip-flops wearers are more susceptible to blisters (from the small strap between your toes), sunburn and insect bites. You're not wearing socks, so it's easier for your feet to pick up dirt and potential fungal infections, too.
Easy on your rough spots
Flip-flips are open-air, so they don't rub on painful bunions, blisters or cuts.
Not exactly specialized
Some folks have high arches. Others have flat feet (with no arch). Both of those foot types need a particular style of shoe for support, comfort and safety. A flip-flop's generic design doesn't do that.
OK in small doses
If you wear flip-flops every day, it likely will lead to eventual foot pain, and could expand to your knees, hips and back. Richman suggests mixing into your wardrobe flip-flops with more padding or wearing padded athletic shoes. Don't make flimsy flip-flops the norm.
"If all your shoes are the same in terms of no padding or protection, you've got to change that up," he said.
Foot and ankle pain can keep you from activities that promote good health, including walking and other forms of exercise. Find a Novant Health specialist who can use sophisticated diagnostic imaging and nerve and muscle tests to choose the right treatment for you.