FLIP or FLOP?

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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.

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"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.

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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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