Are Flip Flops and Slide-In Sandals Hurting Your Athletes Performance?

Lauren's FORMER favorite after race shoes.


Maybe?? Flip-flops and slide in sandals  have become a staple of the track and field athletes track apparel, and for good reason. After running on a hot track, all an athlete (mine included) wants to do is slide their feet in to an un-confining shoe that speaks comfort and ease. I can’t deny the carefree feeling of  flip-flops.   But alas, flip-flops are more sinister than they appear.

After Lauren’s four months of visits to the Podiatrist this season and a boot for almost four weeks, I have learned more than a lay person should know about the athletes’ foot and how to take care of it for better performance and of course healthier feet.

With much resistance I have successfully removed a few main stays  of Lauren’s wardrobe. It wasn’t   without much discussion and a lot of bargaining on Lauren’s part but in the end we both win. The bad shoes (Vans, Converse, Flip flops and Slide-ins yep even the Nike and adidas  ones she loves and you see her in often) are now persona non gratis and her feet are going to be happier next season.

Just The Facts  

In 2008 Auburn University researchers found that wearing flip-flops alters your gait, which can result in biomechanical issues from your foot to your spine. “In flip-flops the kinetic chain is essentially asked to function differently,” Allen says. “They can force changes in step and stride length, reduce function of the glutes, and compromise lower leg and foot intrinsic muscles, to name a few.”


This sandal craftsman might not like the latest verdict on sandals and flip flops


When a person is  wearing flip-flops this is what happens:

The foot intrinsic and toe extensor muscles  are reduced in the stance phase of gait. What’s important about this is that the toe extensors, found in the lower leg, are synergists for ankle dorsiflexion (the upward movement of the foot), which is key in running and sprinting. Without ample function of these muscles, the toe flexors, calf and Achilles shorten and tighten, which impairs optimal ankle and foot joint function.

That quote above alone  hooked me and by the time  Lauren’s  Podiatrist  Dr. Ken Nguyen, in his very thoughtful calm way said to Lauren and I a few months ago “ You have to get rid of those flip flops right away especially since  you have this toe and foot problem. You don’t want to limit your running ability which can absolutely happen” Enough said.


Lauren and Sports Podiatrist Dr. Ken Nguyen. This was the day he told us she could run again. OH Happy DAY!


What’s a girl to wear now?

Well the experts are clear and state  if you are going to wear  flip flops, you should wear the type that  have straps that fasten to your heel or lower leg. This helps to keep the shoe in close proximity to the foot. Possibly ones with heel cups and arches.  The loose sandal on the  foot has to work harder to keep your flip-flop on. The foot working harder is not better for your youth athletes foot.

Yeah, I know they are really funny looking but oh so comfy..


Lauren can simply wear her training shoes,crocks or light socked kind of shoe (Vibrams etc which she won’t do) I will allow those slide- ins in the car on the way home from the meet, but there is a moratorium on them in general moving forward in the Williams household.


Take Home Points

  1.   The sole may seem soft and comfy, but your foot can over pronate rolling inward since there is no added support.Causing cause pain in the heels, arches, ball of the foot, and toes.
  2. The Muscles and tendons work overtime As you walk, you end up gripping your toes more  making the muscles and tendons in your feet do all the work.
  3. Flat shoes strain the Achilles tendon.Shortening the Achilles tendon and straining the calf muscles.
  4. No ankle support, promoting bad functional muscle patterning of the foot  .
  5. Can cause hip and lower back pain: When wearing flip-flops, you tend to alter your gait, taking shorter steps, which can lead to pain in other areas of the body and again promoting bad functional movement of the glutes and hamstring.


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