Flip Flops

There’s a question that comes up – especially this time of year – over and over . . .

“Why do my Dansko’s feel so good?”

This can not be discussed without talking about why flip flops are getting a bad rap and don’t deserve it.

This is what my patients ask when usually when they’ve had some foot or ankle pain, often the kind of pain that happens in their foot/heel when they get up out of bed in the morning. It might be plantar fasciitis, Sever’s disease, shin splints, Second MTP synovitis, hammertoes, Morton’s neuroma, Achilles tendinitis that has them in my office. Yes, the list really does go on.

The question they are really asking me to answer is why their foot pain is temporarily relieved when wearing these shoes! (They tend to even ask me that with a bit of guilt, thinking they shouldn’t be wearing such shoes…)

Throw into the mix all the bad press on how flip flops are so bad for your feet indicting “poor support” as the underlying cause of flip flops cruelty.

The reason Dansko’s feel so good is actually quite simple: it comes down to the elevated heel, and to a minor degree, the toe roll off.

Take a look at your shoes, if needed, and see what I mean.

At this point, you – or my patients – may be confused: so you’re saying a lower “heel,” like with Dansko shoes, isn’t a bad thing for my foot?

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying.

In part, this is why you’ve asked me the question to begin with: because you are so often told how you need to be wearing flats, and not heels or wedges – for the health of your foot.

But, our logic is off with those generalizations. That’s because we are focusing on the conventional wisdom that “heels” of any kind are BAD – but the real cause of your problem is higher up.

The real cause – and the real reason you are in my office – is the calf.

What a mild heel does, in actuality, is immediately relax your gastrocnemius a bit. This, in the short-term, can reduce the linked tension on your plantar fascia and other areas of your foot and ankle. So, that means you slip on a pair of Dansko’s (or another low heel) and find some relief, and then come to me confused…

For some reason, women are almost a bit guilty to admit this to me, but I explain what’s happening. Yes, you are experiencing a calf that is relaxed, thanks to the angle they provide, and now the calf is not exerting the negative (and damaging) forces on the foot and ankle. 

See the Big Picture: Understand Your Tight Calves

There’s too much focus on how bad wedges are for your feet, without a full explanation or a greater discussion on the actual pros and cons. What’s more is there is way too much discussion on how bad flip flops, in particular, are on your feet.

If anything, part of the issue, based on what I’ve seen for 30 years, is that women will wear a higher heel throughout the winter and early spring. Then, come late spring or summer, they switch into flats and/or flip flops. They might come to the conclusion that the flip flops are the only problem, since they get pain back or start to experience pain. But, with further examination, we can see that the flip flop places the calf under high tension – and well, you know the rest – then that greater, damaging force is now put on your foot and ankle. And that means now you’re back to experiencing pain…and think it is solely the shoes to blame, no pun intended. On further thought the pun is intended.

Look where there is real evidence and science: look to the calf for the majority of problems people have in their foot and ankle. If you just stretch your calves, consistently, you can get your tight calf back to wear it belongs.

Then you can wear all the flip flops you want.