By Nick Black
How excited are you about the beautiful sunny weekends we’ve been having lately? I know the first thing I did on Easter weekend was slide my toes into last summer’s flip flops and get out into the sun. Feeling the skin of my heels rubbing on the pavement as I walked down to the lake gave me inspiration for this article. My first thought was “I need new flip flops” but then it dawned on me, “what a hypocrite”. As a physiotherapist I preach the importance of good footwear in preventing injuries and here I am wearing a pair of worn out dusty flip flops. So in order to clear my conscience, I would like to discuss the importance of a good pair of flip flops or sandals this summer.
This is the time of year where we start to see a lot of what we call ‘overuse injuries’ in the clinic. By this we mean that a particular area of the body has been repetitively worked to the point that the ligaments, tendons, muscles or bones can’t cope and become inflamed and/or damaged. Research has shown that these injuries in the feet, ankles, knees and hips can often be attributed to poor leg alignment and control. Think of it this way – when you change your winter tires back to your summer tires you are likely to get your cars wheels aligned. A leg alignment may not be as simple, so why not fit your footwear to help correct any misalignment?
One of the most common alignment issues we see relating to the legs is excessive pronation in the feet. This is where the arch on the inside of the foot collapses as we walk, causing increased strain directly on the bottom of the foot but also on the ankle, knee and hip through the twisting movements excessive pronation creates in the legs. There is a lot of debate as to whether correcting over pronating feet can really help to fix overuse injuries in the legs? The obvious answer to this is that everyone is different and the job of a physiotherapist is to try to establish how foot pronation affects each individual person.
Let’s not get too bogged down in this debate and rather consider the situation at hand. We have a beautiful Okanagan summer ahead of us filled with activity and we have just come out of a long winter of wearing closed supportive shoes and probably haven’t been as active on our feet as we are now. This makes all of us vulnerable to injury. My advice is this – pay a little bit more for a pair of flip flops or sandals that are not flat, but shaped to support the inside arch of the foot and cup the heel. Open footwear with a slightly cupped heel helps to support the foot from rolling inwards as we walk. This will go a long way in preventing the development of ‘overuse injuries’ rather than battling injuries over the summer months.
Unfortunately, in the case of some leg injuries or conditions, flip flops may not be recommended at all. They simply cannot offer as much support as a closed and well fitted shoe. Footwear is such an important consideration in any leg or lower back problem. I’m certainly going to be shopping for a new, supportive pair of flip flops, I strongly urge you to do the same.
Nick Black is a Registered Physiotherapist at Sun City Physiotherapy Winfield. He can be contacted at the Winfield clinic (250.766.2544) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.