The ubiquitous rubber shoe has become standard summer
footwear for women of any age, but new research suggests that wearing
flip-flops for prolonged periods of time could lead to pain and injury.

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Auburn University (AU) researchers have found that wearing
thong-style flip-flops can result in sore feet, ankles and legs. The research
team, led by biomechanics doctoral student Justin Shroyer, presented its
findings at the recent annual meeting of the American College of Sports
Medicine in Indianapolis.

"We found that when people walk in flip-flops, they alter
their gait, which can result in problems and pain from the foot up into the
hips and lower back," Shroyer said. "Variations like this at the foot can
result in changes up the kinetic chain, which in this case can extend upward in
the wearer's body."

Not to get too scientific but the researchers, in the AU
College of Education's Department of Kinesiology, recruited 39 college-age men
and women for the study. Participants, wearing thong-style flip-flops and then
traditional athletic shoes, walked a platform that measured vertical force as
the walkers' feet hit the ground. In addition, a video camcorder measured
stride length and limb angles.

The AU team found that flip-flop wearers took shorter steps
and that their heels hit the ground with less vertical force than when the same
walkers wore athletic shoes. The subjects hit the platform with less
straight-down force when they wore flip-flops, another result of an altered
gait.

It turns out that when wearing flip-flops, the study
participants did not bring their toes up as much during the leg's swing phase,
resulting in a larger ankle angle and shorter stride length, possibly because
they tended to grip the flip-flops with their toes.

AU researchers also noted that flip-flops can be worn to provide
short-term benefits such as helping beach-goers avoid sandy shoes or giving
athletes post-game relief from their athletic shoes, but are not designed to
properly support the foot and ankle during all-day wear, and, like athletics
shoes, should be replaced every three to four months.

So if you have foot problems, ankle problems, lower leg
problems and you do wear flip-flops a lot, perhaps limit the time you do spend
in them. Some flip-flops on the
market may provide more support, but are usually more expensive. For
someone with lower-leg or foot problems, you should choose a flip-flop with
more built-in arch support. Maybe even try those good
old Dr. Scholl's exercise sandals.

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