Flip flops are a go-to shoe for many Floridians when the summer heat sets in. However, flip flops and other low, flat shoes can cause a number of physical problems for people.
Dr. Alfred O. Bonati, MD, Founder and Chief Orthopaedic, Surgeon, The Bonati Spine Institute, gave some insight into the kind of problems shoes can cause.
“An individual, particularly females, who wear flip-flops or use flat shoes, when they ambulate, hit the floor with their heel,” explained Dr. Bonati. “This transmission of force goes to the low back. A constant pressure in that area through the years will affect the lower facets and sacroiliac joint, and people will have low back pain.”
While flip flops are a unisex shoe, women are more prone to having back problems due to their unique shape.
“This pressure is worse in females because their unique curvature in the
spine brings the pelvis more outward, making the pressure more intense than
Pain in the lower back is usually the first sign of injury from flat shoes. If left unsolved injuries to hips, knees, and ankles could result. Dr. Bonati suggests changing shoes first to address pain.
“If someone is beginning to feel pain in their lower back, the first thing they can do is change their shoes,” said Dr. Bonati. “Start first with shoes with a higher heel.”
For women, a higher heel is especially important since their pelvis is more outward. However, a higher heel doesn’t mean stilettoes are a good choice. Dr. Bonati doesn’t recommend wearing stilettoes, but instead a decent heel that will shift the pressure from the lower back to the knee. Shoes with a lower heel or a platform are suggested for men.
“When you change shoes to a shoe with a heel, it will pitch the body forward. When this happens, you hit the forward part of the foot (the ball of the foot and toes) and that is going to force the impact to go to the knee. The knee will act like a shock absorber, the o impact will not go to the low back.”
For someone who has been experiencing pain for less than three months, Dr. Bonati suggests the shoe change first along with some exercise, stretching and possibly a back brace.
“If there is pain lasting more than three months, anatomical changes can be happening. This should be seen by a specialist.”
Though they are cute for the summer flat shoes provide very little support and should be avoided.