First, let’s just get it out there: We love flip-flops. They’re stylish, casual, and when it’s nice out, it feels great to let your feet enjoy the weather too!

Now, the hard truth: Flip-flops and posture just aren’t friends. Those 2-for-$5 specials you might find at variety and convenience stores can be especially hard on your feet and back. Unlike sneakers, flip-flops offer poor support for your arches and heels, and do a pretty bad job absorbing impact as well. Although some people with very flat arches in their feet might be able to wear flip-flops regularly with minimal consequences, most of us with have normal or fallen arches need more from our footwear to support good biomechanics.

Why is this important for your posture and back pain? In the kinetic chain, all of your body parts are interconnected, working together as a biological machine. Within the chain, your feet are the foundation for the rest of your body. And when flip-flops are your primary footwear choice, your gait may change for the worse, resulting in foot pain that can travel up through your legs, hips, and eventually to your lower back.

Flip-Flops and Posture: A Foundation of Evidence

There’s good research behind the idea that flip-flops aren’t the healthiest footwear option out there. A study conducted by researchers at Auburn University indicated that wearing flip-flops fundamentally changes how people walk, potentially leading to foot issues.

The team recorded and watched film of flip-flop wearing students, finding that they tended to distort the position of their toes in order to keep the flip-flop on in mid-step. These movements extend the plantar fascia, which connects the heels to the toes, resulting in painful inflammation, heel spurs, and “foot fatigue.” Other symptoms included taking shorter strides while walking and turning their ankles inward. Recommendations from the American Podiatric Medical Association fall in line with this research. Flip-flops just aren’t good for extensive walking or exercising, and they can result in poor arch support, tendinitis of the foot, and sprained ankles due to tripping.

Back to Basic Footwear

Given this evidence, should you do away with flip-flops forever? Not necessarily. But if you’ve got a full day of walking, standing, or any type of physical activity ahead of you, put on a pair of shoes that have a good support structure.

Of course, for some people it might be too late. If you’re already at the point where your back feels constantly tight and sore, you may need to see a chiropractor or physical therapist for a spinal adjustment. If you’re feeling pain in your feet, see a certified podiatrist, who can help diagnose any arch abnormalities in your feet, such as fallen arches or plantar fasciitis.

To learn more about the many effects that your feet have on your posture, read our blog post, “Improve Posture by Putting Your Best Foot Forward”!