• Closeup of flip flops on green grassAs the weather gets warmer, I see many patients wearing sandals and flip-flops. While lighter shoes may keep you cooler, they may also be putting unnecessary stress on your spine.

    The average American takes 5,117 steps a day, so improper footwear can lead to degenerative changes in the muscles, joints and connective tissues in the feet over time.

    The problem is alarmingly widespread. Seventy-eight percent of American adults over the age of 21 reported in 2012 that they had experienced foot pain or issues. Shoes have been implicated as the principal cause of forefoot disorders in women.

    Here are some tips for selecting healthy, summer footwear that provides support, protection and cushioning:

    Look for the shank: One component of the optimal footwear or sandal is called a shank. A shank is a semi-rigid and semi-flexible material that allows for support and a normal or optimal range of motion when the foot is functional. The typical summer sandal is very thin, not allowing a shank.

    Insist on three-arch support: Another important component of optimal footwear is the support of the arches — not just the one, but all three: medial, lateral longitudinal arches and anterior transverse arches. Optimal accuracy can be measured from a weight-bearing cast or a functional scan. The height of the arches should be at the relative lowest end of the normal range of motion for that arch. This will allow for normal/optimal motion but block excessive motion, usually pronation.

    Banish traditional flip-flops: Of all the harmful summer footwear out there, traditional flip-flops are perhaps the most damaging. Traditional flip-flops are notoriously flat, offering little support or cushioning to the foot. Not surprisingly, reported rates of heel pain, frequently due to plantar fasciitis, statistically rise in the spring as flip-flop wearers shed their winter footwear in favor of the popular sandal. The problem worsens when the wearer is overweight or sedentary.

    Researchers at Auburn University found that wearing traditional flip-flops can alter gait, which can result in problems and pain from the foot up into the hips and lower back.

    If you are experiencing aches and pains this summer, we may be able to help. Call our office today at 425-778-9600 for a consultation.

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