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Why Teen Age Girls and Your Feet Love Flip Flops

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In 2005, the women’s lacrosse team from Northwestern University made big news. Their capture of the national championship got some back-page attention, but those shoes made page 1 headlines.

Flip flops don’t get much respect. Fashionistas say they’re too déclassé for anywhere but the beach or pool. Podiatrists swear they will destroy your feet. The town of Greenwich, CT, banned municipal workers from wearing them at work. Quantas Airways won’t let you in their lounges with them.

If you belong to the camp that adores flip flops and finds them awesomely comfortable, you can now defend your position.

Flip flops aren’t just better for your knees and feet than stiletto heels, they are better than good lace-up walking shoes and high-quality stability shoes. It’s official.

Dr. Najia Shakoor at Rush University tested 31 participants who had knee arthritis wearing different shoes. At the time, nearly all doctors believed that shoes with thick cushioning, stability and arch support were the best choices.

Shakoor’s team recorded the gait, including pressure on the knee as the volunteers walked in four different kinds of shoes. High heels were not tested as everyone already knew they would be a problem for foot pain and undue force on the knees.

But the results were surprising.  The team tested a sturdy clog (Dansko), a flat walking shoe (H Street by Puma), a stability shoe (Brooks Addiction), and flip flops (generic cheapies made of plastic, with flat sole).

Dansko clogs have fans among medical personnel like nurses because of their arch support and cushioning.  They proved to be the worst shoe in the bunch for knee pain.  Stability shoes were almost as bad. The flexible walking shoe was better.

Then there were the flip flops. With no stability. No arch support. No heel.

Flip flops were most comparable to walking barefoot, which is the best footwear for reducing pressure on sore knees. They were very similar to barefoot for walking speed, stride length and range of motion in the ankle. The lack of support may also encourage stronger foot muscles to develop.

Of course, even this nearly perfect (to some) shoe has its flaws. You can’t wear them on snowy days. They won’t protect your feet on wilderness trails. They don’t stay on if you try to run in them.  But for around the house, running errands, and maybe even for work—you can get them with rhinestones—flip flops are kind to your knees.

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