The dangers of flip flops

If you thought stilettos were
killers, wait till you hear about the damage caused by the lowly flip-flop.

It’s not just stubbed toes and
blisters; the ubiquitous summer sandal is being blamed for myriad injuries,
from chronic foot and ankle pain to falls, back injuries, escalator mishaps and
car accidents.

General practitioners, podiatrists
and emergency room physicians are run off their feet caring for patients who
have hurt themselves in footloose flip-flops.

The rise in flip-flop-related
injuries may simply be due to their enormous popularity. Many men and women own
multiple pairs because they are convenient, inexpensive and fashionable.

Tread carefully, experts say

Flip-flops provide the foot with
“no support whatsoever,” said Vancouver podiatrist Roy Mathews.

Wearing them all summer long can
cause problems particularly for people with high arches or flat feet, he says.

Flip-flops force the wearer to
scrunch their toes to grip the thong at the wrong time in the gait cycle, Mr.
Mathews said. What’s more, he added, people tend to wear their flip-flops long
after the sandals have worn out, causing a further loss of support for the
foot.

Foot ailments range from plantar
fasciitis — a common cause of heel pain involving inflammation of tissue that
runs across the bottom of the foot connecting heel bone to toes — to shin
splints and metatarsalgia, marked by pain and inflammation in the ball of the
foot.

Add to that injuries that occur
when people wearing flip-flops decide to play Frisbee or touch football, said
Mr. Mathews.

Joanne Banfield, manager for trauma
injury prevention at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, said flip-flops belong
on the beach.

She added that people should not be
driving while wearing them.

“There have been episodes of
horrific collisions caused when someone was unable to brake because their
flip-flop became caught,” said Ms Banfield.

She compared the injuries
associated with flip-flops to such repetitive stress issues as carpal tunnel
syndrome. “They can lead to poor posture and back problems.”

FitFlops, about $80, are thicker
than the average flip-flop, cup the heel and provide the foot with some arch
support while promising to tone muscles.

Ms Banfield said there are limited
statistics about injuries related to flip-flops because it’s often not determined
immediately that an injury is directly related to wearing the sandals.

“Someone could have a hairline
fracture or a sprain and never attribute it to their flip-flops,” said Ms
Banfield.

Denyse Boxell, project leader for
Safe Kids Canada, said many young people seek medical assistance after their
flip-flops get wedged in escalators at the mall. Between 1990 and 2006, there
were 1,070 escalator-related injuries in Canada; 85 per cent of those involved
kids under 14 years. 

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