Flip-Flops and Foot Pain

FlipFlopsIn the past two years, I have noticed an increase with patients with plantar fasciitis and foot pain in general.  The majority of the patients who have foot pain wear flip flops on regular bases, if not daily.

Average American takes 5,117 steps a day, our footwear is hardly an inconsequential choice. And while there’s no single shoe that is perfect, flip flops may be the worst choice of footwear of them all

The lack of arch support in most flip-flops can cause plantar fasciitis –  inflammation of the thick band of tissue along the bottom of the foot that causes a stabbing pain, especially in the heel.  Plantar fasciitis affects close to two million Americans each year.  This acute heel pain is most often sparked by all-day flip flop wearing, overweight or sedentary wearers are even more susceptible since their arches are already under strain. Roughly 20 percent of sufferers develop a chronic condition (back pain, hip pain, etc), making plantar fasciitis even worse.

Other injuries include shin splints and metatarsalgia, which causes pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. People with flatter arches are more prone to such overuse injuries because they require more support for their muscles and ligaments.

In one study, researchers compared the effects of wearing flip-flops and athletic shoes on 39 male and female college students. The flip-flop wearers took shorter steps and struck their heel to the ground with less vertical force than when in sneakers, causing their gaits to sway away from their natural rhythm.  The reason being flip-flop wearers tend to scrunch their toes around the thong portion of the flip flop to keep them from flying off their feet, which can lead to repetitive stress on the ankle and foot.  This forces the body to compensate, and what starts as stress on the arch, heel, and the rest of the foot can eventually manifest as soreness in the legs, hips, and lower back.

To prevent flip flop injuries, replace flip flop every 3 months and only wear them for short period of time -beach walking, pool side and a quick run to the grocery store.  Make sure the heel and toes don’t hang off the edges of the flip flop and that when you bend the flip flop from end to end it bends where the ball of the foot hits, not at the arch.

Even with these preventive measures, the bottom line is flip flops have no (foot) support.   No foot support leads to foot pain.

Can acupuncture relieve plantar fasciitis and foot pain?  A study conducted in 2011 showed acupuncture to be effective for alleviating plantar fasciitis and foot pain. This trial randomized 28 persons to the treatment group and 25 persons to the control group. The study showed the controlled group had less feet pain in morning, pain on activity and less overall pain.  This study seems to support that acupuncture can be helpful for patients with plantar fasciitis and foot pain.  So the answer is yes, acupuncture can help relieve your foot pain.

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