Do you flip or flop?

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=flip+flop&iid=170546″ src=”0166/fd45f1fc-d6ef-4381-adac-fc7043027c29.jpg?adImageId=12427288&imageId=170546″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]

Some research out of Rush University in Chicago suggests that flip-flops or other flexible shoes may be easier on the knees than clogs or supportive walking shoes. I have to admit that I found this news contrary to what I have learned and what I usually advise patients. However, given all the recent interest in the running community about barefoot running, I must say I’m not entirely surprised. After reading the article, I asked for some advice from one of my foot and ankle orthopaedist friends on Twitter (@thomasleemd) and if you follow him, you can read his personal impressions of barefoot running. From the article,

“Stiffness is also a factor.  We’ve shown in earlier studies that barefoot walking is associated with lower knee loads than walking with conventional footwear.  It may be that the flexible movement of the bare foot is mechanically advantageous.  The natural flex of the foot when it contacts the ground probably attenuates the impact on the joint, compared to the artificial ‘stomping’ movement created by a stiff-soled shoe.”

In the present study, Shakoor said, flip-flops and the walking shoe were flat, flexible and lightweight and seemed to mimic the mechanics when walking with bare feet.

“Clogs and stability shoes, conventionally believed to provide appropriate cushioning and support, actually increased the loading on the knee joints, as opposed to shoes with less ‘support,’ flatter heels and more flexibility,” Shakoor said.

Will this change how I counsel patients? I suppose I won’t be quite so hard on flip-flop wearers. However, those with foot pain or “fallen arches” may need the stability of athletic shoes or shoes that accommodate orthotics. Personally, I have so far tried out a few dog walks in plain old flip-flops instead of putting on my running shoes as I would have done otherwise.

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5 responses to “Do you flip or flop?

  1. Alas, I’m in the custom-orthotic group now, so barefoot and barely-shoes are no longer an option.

    Barefoot has always been my preference, with flip-flops or Birkenstocks a close second, and I love having studies now saying that there might be some benefit to going without shoes.

  2. So how did your walks go in the flip flops? Someone else posted about this, but I wondered about it too, what with RA’ers having altered “anatomy” in the feet. I used to feel better walking barefoot after being on my feet all day, but now it’s getting to the point where it’s more painful walking barefoot after being on my feet all day. Guess it depends on what’s going on in the foot.

  3. Feet are a hot topic lately – I recently wrote about them and what to wear on my blog, too!

    When I was diagnosed in January of this year with rheumatoid arthritis, I started wearing slip-on runners, because my feet hurt so much. Then, when I realized they just kept hurting and hurting, I slowly tried the thin slipper and barefoot route, and on days more cushioning was needed, flip-flops. For my feet anyway (I have no damage so far), less support seems the better route…

    • Love that picture. Makes me think of summer when I live in flip flops. And, now that the bunions are out — from wearing heels all week — wearing flip flops genuinely feels restorative 🙂

  4. I would love to see some research on the Crocs movement as well.

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