Flip flops and pedicures symbolize summer for many Americans. But for the sake of healthy feet, read on. We consulted Podiatrist, Joseph Harvey, DPM, at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists in northeast Texas to tell us the potential pitfalls of wearing flip flops regularly, as well as applying nail polish without breaks.

Flip Flops Lack Support

Classic flip flops are fine for wearing briefly on the beach, pool or shower to prevent you from slipping. However, if they are worn continually or for walking any distance, there might be better footwear choices. Classic flip flops have a flat design, which can cause heel pain. “Without the proper support, the tendons and muscles in your feet can be overused and easily irritated leading to pain,” Dr. Harvey says.

The pain that comes from wearing flip flops happens slowly over time. “You may notice the pain in your heels and feet after resting and often in the morning,” Dr. Harvey says. “The pain may be improved with activity but increases after rest.”

Risk of plantar fasciitis

A few of the foot issues that flip flops could cause include Plantar fasciitis. This happens Dr. Harvey says, when “the plantar fascia that connects the heel bone to the toes becomes inflamed. You might feel it as a stabbing pain in your heel or stiffness.”

Another possible foot issue is achilles tendonitis. Achilles tendonitis is triggered when the tendon that attaches the heel bone to the heel becomes inflamed, which leads to heel pain. The instability of the flip flop design could set off Achilles tendonitis, which can lead to tears in the muscles of your feet.

Driving in flip flops is not advised.

Escalators eat flip flops 

Aside from its open design, which leaves your foot exposed to sun, insect bites, etc., flip flops are accident prone. Ever tried to run or walk fast in flip flops? If they are made of flimsy foam, they tend to fold in half, causing you to trip or fall. This could cause injuries such as a sprained ankle or broken bone.

Driving with flip flops is also unwise as they can get caught in the pedals. And finally, flip flops don’t mix with escalators. Flip flops, Crocs and other soft-soled shoes are prone to get caught in the bottom metal piece of the escalator called the comb plate.

The Oolalal sandal from OOFOS features proprietary technology for the comfortable footbed.

New Designs to the rescue 

OK, if you own some flip flops you love, a good idea is to limit how long you wear them. And as you make new summer footwear purchases, select from the growing body of exciting new designs with support. Look for a thick sole and supportive arch, as well as secure straps/back strap. Some of the brands you might want to consider include OluKai and Oofos to name just a few.

Give yourself a pedicure vacation  

Now that you’ve got a new pair of arch-supportive flip flops or sandals, you might want a pedicure to make your toenails look beautiful in a new shade of nail polish.  While there’s nothing wrong with a clear or colorful shade of nail polish, Dr. Harvey cautions against making painted toenails a constant habit.

“Leaving nail polish on too long can dry out toenails and make them brittle,” Dr. Harvey says. “Healthy toenails are a protective barrier against bacteria and fungi trying to set up shop. Thinned-out, brittle nails have lowered defenses.”

Constantly painting your toenails a dark color, for instance, could lead to nail discoloration. Over time constantly painted toenails can turn yellowish from exposure to iron oxide, a chemical found in many nail polishes.

Risk of fungal infections

Fungal infections can also be trapped in by polish, another reason to give your toenails a chance to breathe. Further, nail salons without proper hygiene and sanitation protocols can put you at risk for infections.

Yes, you can have your summer pretty painted toenails and healthy feet, too!

Dr. Harvey recommends the following toenail-polish tips:

  • Remove the nail polish after two weeks to give your toenails a break for at least a few days. Inspect your nails to make sure they’re healthy. Remember that nails can become discolored for reasons other than nail polish — for instance, a fungal infection or diabetes.
  • Paint a clear base coat before applying polish to reduce the likelihood of staining.
  • Lighter nail polish colors will not stain nails as easily or quickly as darker colors.
  • Do not paint over infected toenails. Moisture is a fungal infection’s best friend, and nail polish can seal it in.
  • Check out the American Podiatric Medical Association’s Seal of Acceptance/Approval products at www.apma.org

-Alliance Footcare and Ankle Specialists

So, enjoy the summer and take care of your feet. A little foresight will preserve your feet and help them look and feel good for a long time.

Dr. Joseph Harvey

Dr. Joseph Harvey, DPM, is passionately committed to an integrative approach to podiatry that balances the latest medical techniques with compassionate care. During a three-year podiatric residency at St. Joseph Medical Center in Houston, Dr. Harvey received advanced training in forefoot and rearfoot reconstruction, diabetic limb salvage, wound care, sports medicine, and arthroscopic techniques. He’s on staff at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists


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