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Sandals and Flip-flops: Friend or Foe?

By Lorraine Carroll
In Ireland we love to be able to change footwear in the summer months into lighter more airy shoes such as sandals and flip flops. What most of us do not realise is that changing into less supportive shoes can induce back pain, knee pain and foot pain. Similarly, taking up a different job or exercise regime with more standing and walking than usual can induce problems.

Certain foot types are prone to developing heel pain. A foot in which the weight is not distributed evenly either due to tight calf muscles or the shape of the arch and bones in the foot can develop foot pain.

Both a high arched foot and a flatter arch foot can develop this condition. Equally suddenly changing the height and support of shoes, going from solid winter shoes to strappy sandals or flipflops can cause strain on joints, ligaments and muscles and result in an achy back or legs, often centred around the base of the heel.
Plantar fascitis is a term used to describe irritation or overuse of the soft tissue of the heel due to incorrect footwear or abnormal stresses on the heel. Commonly this condition is painful first thing in the morning once weight is put on the foot. It eases during the day with walking and movement. Then towards evening, if you’ve been sitting for a while and get up, the pain returns. The base of the heel is very tender to touch and may become swollen, as the soft tissues become irritated.

Chartered Physiotherapists complete a full biomechanical assessment to determine contributing factors to the development of foot related problems. Treatment involves pain relief, stretching tight muscles and joints of the lower leg and foot, strengthening weakened muscles, taping the feet for improved positioning. Acupuncture, home icing or application of anti-inflammatory gels can provide pain relief. Good compliance with an individualised home exercise programme is important. In severe cases, as a final resort, it may be necessary to have a corticosteroid injection into the heel for relief of longstanding plantarfascitis.

However in mild cases the symptoms can disappear with exercise and appropriate good quality, supportive shoes (definitely not flip flops!).

In more moderate cases, orthotics are often useful. Orthotics can be thought of like spectacles for the feet: a customised insole which allows the weight of the body to be distributed more evenly over the foot. This lessens irritation on the heel, allowing the foot to function optimally, just as wearing glasses assists poor vision.

For good foot health we suggest that you leave flip flops for use at the beach or relaxing at home. Avoid mules or sandals without a backstrap for everyday wear. When taking up a new sport or fitness regime, wear exercise specific runners. Physiotherapists can advise you on suitable shoe or sneaker types.

Don’t let foot pain hold you back or make you give up a new exercise regime. Arrange a biomechanical assessment with a Chartered Physiotherapist today so that you can enjoy an active summer.

Copyright TherapyXperts

Lorraine Carroll is a Consultant Chartered Physiotherapist and practices at TherapyXperts Mount Merrion. Tel: 0818 333 611.
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TherapyXperts: Registered business address: Kandoy House, 2 Fairview Strand, Fairview, Dublin 3, Ireland|Phone: +353 818 333 611|Email: info@therapyxperts.ie
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