Weekly Wellness: For the love of flip-flops

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COLUMBIA - In the summertime, I love flip-flops! They are easy. They are cute. They show off a pedicure. How can something so wonderful have such a potential negative impact on our feet? So what's the deal?

Well, you have to clench the muscles in your feet the entire time you're wearing them so they don't fall off. You may not even realize that you're doing it, but, trust me. You are. If you're just wearing your flip-flops to run a quick errand or to walk from the car to the pool, no biggie. It's when you are wearing them for hours at a time (like to walk around Disneyland on the family vacation), that issues can arise.

The "grip" your feet perform to keep footwear on:

  • Makes some toe bones curl up and some down
  • Drives the end of some bones into the ground, creating higher-than-normal pressure-this can lead to toe contracture/metatarsal injury over time
  • Drives the ends of some bones up into the top of the sandal, which can lead to corns and calluses over time if there's something for the toes to rub against.

All this gripping can lead to shortened toe muscles (called hammer toes), and gait and balance changes. In time, it can affect how your whole body moves.

Here are some stretches that might help:

Stretch the Top of Your Foot

  • Stand up straight on your right foot and reach your left foot back behind you, tucking the toes of your left foot under and placing them on the floor.
  • Work up to holding this stretch for one minute. If your toes start to cramp, come out of the move, rest, and return when you can.
  • Toes just too tight? Try it seated.

Calf stretch

  • Place the ball of your left foot on the apex of a half-foam roller or rolled-up folded towel. Drop the heel all the way to the ground, and straighten that knee.
  • Step forward with your right foot. If you can't bring your foot all the way forward, take a smaller step.
  • Keep your weight stacked vertically over the heel of whichever foot is farther back.
  • Hold for one minute, then switch legs; do this three times on each leg.

Toe Spreading

  • Sit cross-legged.
  • Interlace the fingers of the right hand with the toes of the left foot.
  • Gently spread your toes away from each other.
  • Hold for up to one minute, then switch to the other hand and foot.

Still want to let your tootsies feel the sun in the summertime? Opt for a Greek sandal that is strappy on top, flat on the bottom, and still fully connected to your foot. Or find a sandal that has a strap around the back of your heal.

Take good care of those feet. They need to last you a while.