Flip-Flops: Walking on Shaky Ground?

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I grew up in Cyprus, which meant I spent the best part of 5 years wearing flip-flops. The air was too hot for shoes, the ground was too hot to go bare-foot: there was no alternative. But when I think back, what springs to mind are the little annoyances. The way the thong plastic stretched, edging my toes over the front so the ground nipped at them when I walked. The strange dull ache in my ankles. The criss-cross sunburn.

In fact it’s easy to argue for and against flip-flops. On the one hand, they’re light, they allow air between the toes, they’re fun and of course they’re very cheap. And on the other? In today’s world, "cheap" equates to "disposable" – and flip-flops are usually made of eco-unfriendly plastics. And that ache in my ankles? It wasn’t in my head. A recent study by Auburn University (via Moms Speak Up)  concluded that wearing toe-thonged footwear permanently altered the way you walk, putting unnatural strain on feet and ankles and resulting in the "flip-flop shuffle".

So what’s the answer? The first is easy: don’t wear them for long-distance walking. Treat them like beach slippers. If you’re going further afield, wear some light, well-supported shoes – or invest in a pair of the new molded sports sandals that hug the length of the foot. (Teva’s Kayenta seems a good choice). Your best bet is a beach walking shoe that adjusts to fit you, not the other way round. And finally? Beach footwear rests against sensitive skin – so don’t sacrifice safety to save a few dollars. What’s good for the environment is usually good for you, too. Worth the price, in my opinion.

Image: JAIRO BD

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.