Once upon a time, flip-flops were cheap, rubber thongs that you wore to wash your car or schlep to the beach.
Nowadays, they're a summertime craze. No longer just dull drugstore specials, the sandals with the V-shaped straps turn up everywhere in eye-popping shades, from hot pink to lime green. They come adorned with spangles, flowers, and college logos. One company even created flip-flops with a built-in bottle opener.
Fun and fashionable, flip-flops have their place in your shoe closet, experts say. But they're not meant to be worn with abandon -- or else you may be courting foot pain.
Flip-Flops: Good and Bad
Jackie Hartnett, a young Northern California woman, owns five pairs, including some with a Hawaiian motif and a black pair with polka dots. Come rain or shine, she wears flip-flops. "They're really comfortable. I don't like shoes because they're so confining," she says. Her boyfriend accidentally steps on her toes, but to Hartnett, that's a small price to pay for the breezy feel of flip-flops.
"Flip-flops and sandals during the summer are very common and very popular," says John G. Anderson, MD, a Michigan orthopaedic surgeon and American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society spokesman.
What's their best purpose? "Flip-flops give you some basic protection to the bottom of your foot to walk around poolside or on a surface that may be warm during the summer," says Jim Christina, DPM, director of scientific affairs for the American Podiatric Medical Association.
In contrast, it's a bad idea to play sports or hike trails in flip-flops, foot pain experts tell WebMD. Here's a quick primer on flip-flop safety.
No Foot Support Leads to Foot Pain
Unlike sturdy shoes, flip-flops aren't good for extensive walking because they offer no arch support, heel cushioning, or shock absorption, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). Wearers can suffer foot pain due to lack of arch support, tendinitis, and even sprained ankles if they trip.
Many vacationers find out the hard way. They can't wait to toss aside their wingtips or pumps to lounge in flip-flops all day long. But after a few days, some want to hurl the sandals into the garbage bin.