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Pair of studies features biomechanical analysis of footwear
30
May '08
People who favor flip-flops as their primary footwear option during warm summer months may experience lower leg pain and a change in their stride, according to research presented at the 55th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) in Indianapolis.

"Flip-flops are very common, and this study began with the observation that most people appear to be wearing them beyond their structural limit," said Justin F. Shroyer, lead author on the study.

"It's also apparent that individuals alter their gait while wearing flip-flops. Based on this, we expected to find that flip-flops may be a cause of pain in the leg or foot, and if so, would be counterproductive to alleviating that pain."

The study compared flip-flops to sneakers to assess the angles at which they impact the floor and the force at contact with the ground during walking. Researchers analyzed the gait of flip-flop wearers compared to their gait while wearing sneakers.

By compiling the forces that the foot is exerting on the ground, they found a statistically significant decrease in the vertical (straight-down) force in flip-flop wearers.

This decreased force may explain anecdotal evidence that persons who wear flip-flops alter their normal gait and therefore may shed light as to why some experience lower leg pain.

"Flip-flops are not designed for prolonged use or for walking long distances," said Shroyer. "They lack the support that a walking or running shoe provides.

Flip-flops should only be worn casually and for shorter periods of time. They probably should also not be a primary footwear choice."

Shroyer also noted:
- Some flip-flops on the market may provide more support, but are usually more expensive. For someone with lower-leg or foot problems, Shroyer recommends they limit their usage, and choose a flip-flop with more support.
- Flip-flops should be replaced often. However, many people claim flip-flops are the most comfortable when they are "broken in," just like a pair of sneakers. Flip-flops should be replaced every few months just as a runner would with running shoes.

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