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Is the "Fit Flop" the answer to the common flip flop sandal?

For years podiatrists have been maligning the flip flop sandal as a cause of many common foot problems. In fact, multiple articles have been published about the dangers encountered in the current flip-flop phenomenon. Still, most teenagers and young adults spend more time in flip-flop sandals then any other shoes.

Biomechanical engineers in the UK have touted (and backed up their claim with real science) the “Fit Flop” as a way to tone your butt, legs, calves and thighs while walking. Refreshingly, a side effect of wearing “Fit Flops” appears to be a decrease in stress on your feet, legs and back decreasing wear and tear as well as some common achey pains.

Why is this? The “Fit Flop” is engineered much like a “barefoot technology” shoe. It makes the muscles that stabilize the foot work harder and over a period of time can actually strengthen your feet. The common flip-flop actually accentuates pronation, the rolling in of your feet which causes fatigue and biomechanical stress in your feet and lower legs. This can lead to overuse injuries like plantar fasciitis and posterior tibial tendonitis which are commonly known as “arch fatigue” or “fallen arches”. Flip-flop sandals also increase the stress on the great toe joint and can accelerate Hallux abducto valgus also known as “bunion” formation. This does not happen with the “Fit Flop” because of the varying EVA in the midsole which actually accelerates the propulsion or “toe off” stage of gait, therefore decreasing the stress on the great toe joint. Those people suffering from bunions may make them their daily shoe gear!

The makers of “Fit Flops” have some good science behind their claim to increase muscle activation 10-12% and it was verified by an independent lab outside their company. Consumers should be cautioned to wear the “Fit Flops” gradually because of the delayed muscle soreness that occurs just like the beginning of a work out routine.

Is the “Fit Flop” the answer to your workout woes? Can your foot problems be a thing of the past? Not even close, no shoe can do that! They can help you burn a few more calories during your daily routine, but cardiac fitness can never be achieved in this manner. A new sandal, no matter how effecive, cannot replace your daily fitness routine. Do no skip your workout. Maybe a curvier calf muscle or thinner thigh, but just walking in a sandal cannot achieve real fitness.

Can anyone wear a “Fit Flop”? Caution should be taken in picking any shoe. Foot type is important to evaluate. The “Fit Flop” is not for you if you have a significantly flexible flat foot due to the destabilizing technology built in to the sandal which can actually accentuate stress injuries in this unstable foot type. If you require in-shoe foot orthotics, the “Fit Flop” is probably not for you.

Bottom line: “Fit Flops” are a good alternative to the common flip-flop sandal but should be worn gradually. Pay attention to any fatigue in your feet! If you have any foot pain or injury, visit your podiatrist and ask their advice on your ability to wear “Fit Flops”.

Dr Marybeth Crane is a sports medicine podiatrist and has been interviewed extensively in the last five years on the nature of flip-flop injuries. For more information on foot-related topics, visit my website at www.faant.com or my running specific website www.myrundoc.com

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