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Flip-Flops Fun but Beware of Foot Pain

Experts give flip-flops thumbs up for the poolside, thumbs down for foot pain

Flip-Flops and Backyard Football

Don't run or play sports in flip-flops, Anderson says. Instead, always wear proper sports shoes.

The orthopaedic surgeon has treated people who ran or jumped in flip-flops and suffered sprained ankles, fractures, and severe ligament injuries that required surgery.

"They're meant for walking on flat surfaces," he says of flip-flops. "They're not meant for playing Frisbee or backyard football or a soccer game. They don't really offer you the support that an athletic shoe would offer you.

"Unsupported feet take a lot more stress than supported feet," he adds. "If you try to use your flip-flop as an athletic shoe, you're asking for trouble."

Snakes in the Grass

Some people wear flip-flops to do yard work, which in rare cases can prompt a trip to the emergency room for injuries from outdoor equipment.

"Inevitably, throughout the course of the summer, we will see a handful of patients with minor to severe foot or toe injuries from lawn mowers, weed eaters, shovels, and aerators," Nicks says. Podiatrist Christina has even seen people accidentally scrape the skin on their feet with power washers.

Another danger: insect and snake bites. Emergency room physicians on both sides of the country report seeing adults and children with snake bites to the feet while wearing flip-flops or sandals.

In North Carolina, Nicks warns against wearing flip-flops or sandals when hiking in areas that copperheads inhabit.

In Southern California, Sean P. Bush, MD, FACEP, has treated several children for rattlesnake bites. The creatures can enter residential yards when urban sprawl pushes up against wilderness, he says. Bush is a venom expert and professor of emergency medicine at Loma Linda University School of Medicine.

If snakes pose a problem in your region, denim pants and close-toed shoes or boots offer better protection, he says.

Driving Hazard

Flip-flops can impair a driver's control if they come off the foot and lodge under the brake or gas pedal, according to Bill Van Tassel, PhD, the American Automobile Association's manager of driver training operations. "Whatever you wear on your feet, make sure it's not so loose that it pops off and interferes with the pedals," he says.

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