Ahhh…SUMMER! Time to kick off the heels and take a stroll through the
grass or slip on a pair of “barely there” shoes. But is this the best thing we can do for our feet? Let’s discuss some normal walking mechanics. In a normal walking pattern, we first strike with the heel, roll through the midfoot, then push off the big toe. Toe push off requires the toes to go into extension. However, when backless shoes such as flip flops are worn, the toes have to grip the shoe to keep them on your foot, causing the big toe to flex instead of extend.
This toe gripping affects different muscles to turn on or shut off all the way up the leg to the core. First, a tight arch forms due to overactive extrinsic foot muscles inhibiting the internal muscles of the foot required for stability in walking. Once the lower leg muscle activation changes due to the excessive toe gripping, it affects the hip’s ability to extend, limiting your walking stride. When your stride is limited, it decreases the buttocks muscle activation and strength.
Walking around with improperly performing glutes can also lead to a condition called “lower crossed syndrome” where the abdominal muscles are overstretched and weak as well, causing an anterior tilt of the pelvis. In this pelvic position the lower back muscles are short, tight, overworked and back pain can occur. These muscle imbalances and improper posture can also lead to excessive pressure incurred around the joints where they are attached, such as the hips or knees, leading to joint pain or injury. The more hours spent in flip flops during the day, the more likely these compensations are to occur.
Do you have plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinitis, or low back pain issues? If so, stop wearing flip flops, or significantly reduce your wear time. Your body will thank you!