Diana: A Flip-Flop Fiasco Just Waiting To Happen
For the past 20 years, I’ve been a flip-flop devotée, with 10 pairs in my closet at any given time. They were my shoe of choice on rainy NYC days when I didn’t want to ruin my fancy boots or pumps. In fact, a former boss once remarked that my office looked like a shoe closet; I’d wear flip-flops for the subway schlep to work, and switch them out for heels immediately upon arriving.
And because I never bought into that whole Saran-Wrap bit, I also kept a few pairs at home for post-pedicure-wear so my toe paint wouldn’t smudge. My goal: perfectly polished feet for three-plus weeks. To boost my pedi's staying power, I would always try to schedule my appointments on winter days that were warm enough to wear flip-flops for the two-block walk back home to my apartment from the salon.
Fast-forward to my Florida move. It's brutally humid + hot, and I'm learning to drive again. The heels on my open-toe shoes were getting ruined in my car and leather driving mocs made my feet sweaty.
Of course flip-flops quickly became my shoe of choice. Not only were they inexpensive enough to not have to worry about destroying them while driving, I also had oodles of colors to go with any outfit. Bonus: they could be left outside in the screened entryway of our Naples home without significant damage.
Then came the pain. And not inconsequential pain, either. It was so significant it reminded me of the time I wore flip-flops for an 18-hour Sex and the City shoot at ’21’ Club where I was the PR gal. Seriously, WTH was I thinking? I guess I was thinking "comfort," but it backfired on me massively.
Back to Florida. And 2017. And my new life. If walking on my gorgeous new tile floors in flip-flops was pure agony, was it time to say buh-bye to my beloved Sunshine State shoe?
Since I never do anything half-ass, I went straight to a bonafide expert for answers: UF Health Jacksonville’s Dr. Kristin Strannigan, DPM, Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, Division of Foot and Ankle. During her years practicing podiatry, she has treated flip-flop wearers for plantar fasciitis (heel spur syndrome), small abrasions, and tendinitis atop the foot.
(Note from Dana: People, I know it looks weird, but the correct spelling of tendinitis is with an "i" - despite the fact that it's an ailment afflicting our poor, endlessly traumatized tendons. If you don't believe me, perhaps you'll believe a little-known entity called The Mayo Clinic.)
Okay, off we go with our Q+A with Dr. S.
FBP: Flip-flops seem to be a go-to shoe here, especially along the coastal cities. Are there perils to wearing them daily? If yes, what are they? Do you need to alternate daily with like a closed shoe?
Dr. Strannigan: While flip-flops are an easy go-to shoe, they do not offer support and can cause increased pain as the day progresses. Particularly with flat thong-type flip flops, the tendons in the top of the foot have to work harder than normal and can cause tendinitis. Alternating and wearing a closed shoe, or something with more arch support, would be beneficial.
FBP: Are there benefits to wearing flip-flops? For example, on rainy days, your foot isn't encompassed by a wet shoe. Would that cause a fungal infection? Do they protect your feet from sharp shells on a beach walk? Are there alternative shoes you'd recommend?
Dr. Strannigan: Wearing a flip-flop on a rainy day would not be beneficial and could actually be dangerous if your foot is wet and slippery. If you do wear a closed shoe and it gets wet on a rainy day, changing shoes is your best bet for decreasing the risk of a fungal infection. Wearing flip-flops on the beach would be a benefit as it could protect from any unseen foreign body, but getting a flip-flop that has arch support would be the most helpful.
FBP: Are there styles you can recommend?
Dr. Strannigan: Your best options are flip-flops or sandals that have both arch supports and straps across the foot.
FBP: Let's talk proper fit: What are your thoughts about purchasing a size smaller than you would for a closed shoe? My take: they give quite a bit after a few wearings, and it's a struggle to keep them on, affecting your gait. Is this my imagination? And, if your foot can fit in the smaller size, but your heel is somewhat hanging off the shoe, is that bad?
Dr. Strannigan: If the shoe stretches a lot and becomes too big after a few wears, it generally isn’t a well-made shoe. If your heel is hanging off the shoe that can be dangerous and I do not recommend it.
Dr. Strannigan: Flat thong sandals are better than sandals with heels. Those brands have a larger strap that crosses the top of the foot which can add more stability.
FBP: FitFlops - so many women wear them. What are your thoughts?
Dr. Strannigan: For short periods of time they’re ok, not for extended periods.
As I write this, my Monday bestie Brenda is off to Tory Burch at Waterside Plaza for the 25% off flip-flop sale. I shared a preview of this story, but she pinky-swears that this is a most comfortable shoe. Yours truly is now only wearing flip-flops post-pedicure and at the beach. Honestly, I'm noticing a distinct drop in foot pain since I've been following Dr. Strannigan's tough-love advice.