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If You’re a Runner (or have feet), Just Say No to Flip Flops!

I know what you’re thinking- “But it’s summer” and “they’re so comfortable” and “so easy to take on and off”, or “Mine have a special arch support so they support my feet”, right? Well, they’re awful for your feet! And can cause a whole host of problems up the chain of your body, including knee, hip and low back problems. It’s one thing to do the short walk from the locker room to the pool with flip flops on but, quite another to be walking around, shopping and running errands in them for miles/hours.

As I discussed in my Bulletproof Runner Workshop a couple of weeks ago, ankle and foot mobility and stability are extremely important for long distance runners. In particular the 1st ray or the big toe needs to have enough extension  (bend up towards the sky when you’re foot is on the ground) in order for the runner to have adequate push off with good alignment. If you don’t have enough big toe extension, then you’re likely to spin your heel either inward or outward aka “heel whip” which can wreak havoc further up the chain due to rotational forces exerted at your knee, hip and spine. You may also develop hallux valgus or bunions on the inside of your big toe or Achilles tendinitis (or tendinosis) from the abnormal spin on the big toe and heel where the Achilles tendon inserts.

When you wear flip flops, it causes you to essentially “grip” with all of  your toes to keep the sandal on which is the opposite of how our feet were designed to walk. It’s often the culprit with the development of “hammer toes” where the middle knuckle of your toe sticks up and rubs against your shoe, causing blisters and pain. If you walk around all day in flip flops, you’re basically shortening/tightening your small intrinsic foot muscles (small muscles that start and end in your feet), your larger extrinsic foot muscles (the muscles that start in your shin and end in your feet), your plantar fascia and not allowing your feet to operate the way they were supposed to.