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Your Back and Flip Flops – Are they a Good Pair?

Your back and flip flops – do they make a good pair? It’s summer here in upstate New York and that means vacations, beaches and flip flops. But, are flip flops good for your back? What about flip flops and low back pain – are they related? Let’s take a closer look.

pain in back and flip flops, flip flops and low back pain

In the first part of this series, What are the Best Shoes for Back Pain?, we discussed how the way you walk and the shoes you wear can affect your spine. Now, in the second part, we’ll take a closer look at how flip flops can affect your back. Next week we’ll discuss how high heels can affect your back.

Your Back and Flip Flops

Could that that pain in your back and flip flops be related? Well, they certainly don’t help. A quick google search will yield article after article saying that flip flops are not a good shoe choice if you suffer from back pain. That’s probably no big surprise to anyone. But what exactly is it about flip flops that make them a sub-optimal choice?

Lack of Cushioning

Our feet are designed to act as shock absorbers so the body and spine don’t have to feel the impact of each step. Cushioned insoles in shoes can also help absorb some of this impact. Most flip flops offer very little cushioning so they don’t provide the protection other shoes might.

No Arch Support

The arches of our feet are critical in maintaining our body’s alignment while walking. If you suffer from a high arch or a flat foot this alignment which can affect the alignment of the rest of your body.1

Greater Risk of Trips and Falls

Has the side or front of your flip flop ever got caught on something while you’re walking? If it has, then you know about the risk of trips and falls when wearing flip flops.

Wearing Flip Flops can Alter Your Natural Walk

In 2010 kinesiology experts at Auburn University compared peoples’ walks while wearing sneakers and flip flops. Their study showed that wearing flip flops (vs sneakers) had significant effects on peoples’ walking motions. Wearing flip flops caused people to curl their toes slightly (to keep the flip flops on) and shorten their stride.2 Individuals’ ankle angle was also affected. Both the change in alignment and length of your stride can affect your body’s alignment and how the impact of each step is felt in the spine.

Can I Still Wear Flip Flops?

Now that we have a better understanding of why flip flops aren’t good for your back, does it mean you have to get rid of all your summer friendly, colorful shoes? Not at all. It’s best just to limit how much you wear flip flops and avoid wearing them if you plan on spending a lot of time on your feet.

 

Stay tuned next week for the final part of this series on how shoes affect your back. In part 3 we’ll be taking a closer look at high heels.

 

References:

  1. Vacupractor
  2. Shroyer and Weimar study
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery