Monday, June 30, 2008

Even though it's summer, put away the flip-flops, please

I get a lot of weird looks when I tell people I don't wear flip-flops. This isn't exactly true; I wear them at the beach, in grody showers, and now that I joined the cult by buying a pair at Old Navy, occasionally around the house. But I don't wear them to work, to run errands, or when I'm going out. Flip-flops hurt my feet--a lot--especially if I'm driving or if I wear them for an extended period of time, like, say, more than half an hour. Flip-flops have no support, and there's increasing evidence that wearing these flat soles actually hurts your legs and feet, and can cause long-term damage.

Like tanning, flips-flogs are another culturally acceptable style that is actually harmful, and brought on by youth culture. Flip-flops can be dressed up, but they are still seen and primarily worn in their most casual styles, demoting a dressy outfit. Nobody seems to realize this, even though girls will get manicures and pedicures to show off how beautiful and put-together they are, only to ruin the illusion by tossing on a pair of $5 flip-flops to accentuate the rest of their hundred-dollar bodies. In the absolutely fascinating New York piece, "How We're Wrecking Our Feet With Every Step We Take", the author explains how women especially kill their feet:

Here’s another example: If you wear high heels for a long time, your tendons shorten—and then it’s only comfortable for you to wear high heels. One saleswoman I spoke to at a running-shoe store described how, each summer, the store is flooded with young women complaining of a painful tingling in the soles of their feet—what she calls “flip-flop-itis,” which is the result of women’s suddenly switching from heeled winter boots to summer flip-flops.

The truth is, I like heels. High heels. But I can only wear them a few times a week--and with my summer shoes, I feel like my mobility is severely limited. I am a sneaker girl through and through, though that article turns the argument of padded sneakers on its head. It's obvious to anyone who's ever put on a pair of high heels that your gait immediately changes, and it's the same with any type of shoe. Even when I walk barefoot I walk differently, carefully, partly because I'm too afraid of stepping on something slimy, gross, or hard.

But while I always thought of that as a bad thing--I am much slower barefoot--apparently it's healthier than wearing many shoes. Obviously heels put feet at a disadvantage, since the feet are arched and crammed into an uncomfortable and rigid frame. But flip-flops cause the foot to hit the pavement harder, causing ankles, legs and toes to work harder. Walking in flip-flops is precarious, because one twist of the ankle or jolt of the seat and the shoe can easily fall off. When walking barefoot, our feet naturally propel us forward, with our weight distributed the way it's supposed to go, also making us walk slower and less harder than we would with shoes.

Of course, most of us aren't really going to add "walking barefoot" as something to work on. But a greater awareness of our feet--instead of the usual pretty toes preoccupation--can only help us, especially when tying this into the rest of our bodies. After all, according to a podiatrist quoted in the New York article, by age 40 80% of Americans have some ankle and feet pain, and that number only increases.

So put those flip-flops with the rest of your swimwear; after all, if you're going to meet the president, you might as well put your best foot forward.

1 comment:

Katelyn said...

I agree 100%. I only wear them to the beach or around the house. I have been wearing ballet flats to work all year round because flip-flops actually hurt my feet. As do heels. Heels kill my knees. I have lots of trouble finding work-appropriate shoes.