Are sandals bad for your feet. I come from a home of shoe-loving women (and men). No seriously, my mother, sister and I once spent 6 hours running around Madrid, in between flights, looking for the perfect pair of green-gold heels. When I moved to North America, I crossed the ocean with a container full of shoes and they are the first accessory I consider when putting together an outfit. If I were to describe my ideal pair of shoes then they would always have a heel, but for practical reasons I mostly wear flats. In contrast, the only time I ever saw my mother wear flats was when she was hiking or taking our dog to the park. She claimed that her achillies tendon was shortened and flats were uncomfortable.
I, for one, love a great pair of barely there sandals. The trouble I have every summer is that when I first put them on, my feet hurt, my knees start to bother me and my hips gets really tight. By the end of summer I’m usually okay, but the first few weeks are bothersome.
ARE SANDALS BAD FOR YOUR FEET
Let’s take a look at the options and how to make them work best for us:
Flip Flops. As much as I hate to say it, these are probably the worst option for your feet. With zero arch support and no straps, they are a free for all for your feet. Don’t spend hours wearing flip flops, especially if you are running errands in the city. Do wear flip flops if you are lounging around on the beach or your back yard.
Flat Strappy Sandals. If there are enough straps holding your foot then you’ll find that you can spend more time wearing this type of shoe, before your feet have had enough.
Birkenstock/Similar Brand. Overall, these styles are better since they usually have adequate arch support, but you still probably don’t want to spend a day sightseeing in them.
If you do wear flat sandals all summer long then you should be aware of some of the issues that you can develop.
Plantar Fasciitis. This is a very common foot problem which occurs when you strain the ligament that runs from your heel to your toes on the underside of your foot.
- It can happen whether you have high arches or flat feet.
- You’ll be more prone to plantar fasciitis if you are overweight
- or if you run or stand on hard surfaces (think sidewalks) for long periods of time
- or if you have tight achilles and calf muscles
Generally, you’ll have more pain first thing in the morning, but you’ll often find that you have pain throughout the day too.
Heel Spurs. This is a calcium deposit that causes a bony lump in your heel. It can be caused by a lot of strain on your foot and over stretching the plantar fascia.
Hammer Toes. If you feel yourself constantly gripping your toes to keep your shoes on (this is especially prevalent in flip flops when you are overcompensating for a lack of straps) then you are in danger of developing hammer toes over time. This is where your toes stay permanently bent at the knuckle and you can’t straighten them out.
Poor Posture. When your gait isn’t normal (did you know that when wearing flip flops you usually make smaller steps?) it affects your posture and over time it can cause back and hip pain.
Now, of course, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t wear sandals or flip flops ever, but choose your footwear wisely and make sure that it fits with your daily activities. It’s also not a bad idea to incorporate some foot exercises and stretches into your daily routine.
BEST FOOT EXERCISES
Grip. This is a pretty easy and common exercise, but a really effective one. Standing up, place one foot on your towel and start slowly picking it up with your foot and then pushing it away. Do this 10x on each foot.
Extensions. Start by standing up (hold on to a chair if you need to) and focus on keeping your feet flat on the floor as you raise your toes into the air. Hold for 5 seconds and release. Repeat 10x
Big toe isolation. This exercise is part 2 of the previous one and helps to increase the mobility in your big toe joint (which is especially important for people who have bunions) as well as strengthening your foot. Start by standing up and lifting your toes off the floor. Leave all your toes up, but try to isolate the big toe by placing it down on the floor and then lifting it back up. Try this 10x. Now do the reverse. Leaving all your toes on the ground, lift just your big toes. Don’t be surprised if this is hard to do. Try it 10x.
Heel raises. Standing up, both feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart, engage your quadriceps so that your knees are straight and protected and rise slowly (2 breaths) up onto the balls of your feet and then slowly lower your heels to the floor. There are a few things you should be thinking about while you do this exercise. First, move in a controlled manner and don’t let your heels drop back down to the floor. Also, when you are rising up onto the balls of your feet, watch that you aren’t rolling to the outside of your feet so that your bones are in alignment. What this probably means for most of us is that your weight will be more on your big toe.
Calf stretch. You’ll find a lot of relief with this stretch. Sitting on the floor, place a towel or resistance band around your foot and gently pull it toward you while keeping our leg straight. You should feel a nice stretch in the back of your leg. Hold for 20 seconds. You can also include a hamstring stretch here by leaning your body forward and holding for 20 seconds.
Toe stretch. Sometimes it’s nice to just stretch out the tops of your feet. You’ll want to be careful with this one and not put too much pressure on your toes. Standing up, tuck your foot (so that the top is touching the floor) and apply gentle, even pressure. Hold for 15-20 seconds on each foot.
Upside down V. This is a very relaxing stretch and while it doesn’t directly affect your feet, it stretches your inner thighs. All of your muscles are connected and this will feel great for everyone, especially those with tight arches. Lying on your back, place your legs up a bare wall and wiggle yourself so that your glutes are up against the wall. Let your legs fall out to the sides and hold for 30 seconds.
Cool down. Place a golf ball in the freezer for a couple of hours and roll your foot over it when it’s feeling especially tired and sore. You’re welcome!
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