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Healthier Flip Flops - Tips and Picks

Keep Your Summer Feet Happier


Updated July 03, 2014

Flip flops are popular as summer comfort shoes, but they are notoriously bad for your feet. Dr. Andrew Weil and podiatrist Phil Vasyli have these tips in choosing flip flops that won't fail your feet.

1. Choose Flip Flops that Bend Only in the Ball of the Foot

Flip Flop Bent in Half
Wendy Bumgardner ©
Cheap flip flops usually lack any kind of structure or support for the foot. If you can bend them in half -- like the one in the photo -- or twist them into a pretzel, they aren't going to help prevent foot fatigue. A good flip flop bends only where you need it to bend when walking -- in the ball of the foot. "This minimal flexibility indicates the proper balance, arch support, and alignment for healthy feet," say Dr. Weil and Phil Vasyli.

2. Get the Right Size

Flip Flop Doesn't Fit
Wendy Bumgardner ©
Your heels and toes should not be hanging off the edge of the sole, inviting rocks and toys to give you a nasty cut or stubbed toe. My walking buddy Nancy calls this "shrimp cocktail toes." Likewise, don't just slip into an oversized pair with edges that can catch on uneven surfaces and cause you to trip. Take special care when driving while wearing flip flops. Three walkers were killed in 2011 when a motorist wearing her husband's oversized flip flops caught one under the accelerator.

3. Replace Worn Out Flip Flops

Worn Flip Flop
Wendy Bumgardner ©
Flip flops aren't forever. Before you slip into them, look for cracks in the sole and uppers or signs that the post is coming loose. You don't want a blow out to trip you up. If there is a deep foot indentation in the sole or you can see the outlines of your toes from last year, it's time to replace them. Remember the Margaritaville song? "I blew out my flip flop, stepped on a pop top, cut my heel, had to cruise on back home."

4. Where Not to Wear Flip Flops

Switchbacks on Multnomah Falls Trail
Wendy Bumgardner © 2010
"Flip flops bad idea! Flip flops bad idea!" That was a teen descending the steep trail from Multnomah Falls as the toe posts on her flip flops bit into her feet. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) agrees with me -- don't wear flip flops for distance walking. Don't wear them for gardening or while playing sports. Wear athletic shoes for walking, hiking shoes for hiking, and garden shoes for gardening. Flip flops do not allow you to achieve a powerful walking stride by striking with the heel and pushing off with the toe. You end up with a shorter stride and just clomping along flat-footed. Wear flip flops only at the pool, beach, or party, or around the house for light walking.

5. Check for the APMA Seal of Acceptance

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) recognizes flip flops that provide proper foot support and promote good foot health. Here is their complete list, and we have some of their selections below, in alphabetic order.

6. ABEO B.I.O. Sandals by Walking Company

ABEO Balboa Sandal
© The Walking Company
The Walking Company scans your foot to determine which of their ABIO B.I.O. System soles are best for your foot and gait. They have neutral soles with arch support, posted soles for motion control, and soles with metatarsal support to relieve pressure on the ball of your foot.

7. Chaco Flips

Chaco Flip Ecotread
Courtesy of Pricegrabber
Chaco has numerous designs with the APMA Seal of Acceptance. The basic Flip Ecotread has straps that are anchored at the mid-foot, to keep them on your feet better (less flop in your flip flops). Their shaped footbeds support your feet.
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8. Dr. Weil Integrative Footwear Flip Flops

Dr. Weil Renew Thong
Courtesy of Pricegrabber
Dr. Weil builds on the Orthaheel motion control technology, with a deep heel cup and arch support. Their upper straps are of full-grain leather. I especially like that each strap is adjustable, with buckles, so you can get the best fit. As a walker, I like having the back strap seen on the Renew flip flop, which can keep the flip flop on your foot when walking uphill or when wearing them with hose.
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9. FitFlop

FitFlop Walkstar III
Courtesy of Pricegrabber
I'm a FitFlop believer, so I am happy that they also receive the APMA Seal of Acceptance. FitFlops have a microwobbleboard technology, which basically gives your feet mini-massages all over as you walk. They provide excellent cushioning. FitFlops are my go-to choice after a long walk, or for wearing on a long day of shopping and standing. They don't have the arch support you find in the Orthaheel designs, which suits me as a low-arched person. I can't wear footwear with toe posts due to nerve damage, so I have to stick with their non-flip flop designs.
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10. Orthaheel Vionic Flip Flops

Orthaheel Flip Flop
Courtesy of Pricegrabber
Australian podiatrist Phil Vasyli designed his Orthaheel Vionic line to prevent over-pronation. If you wear motion control shoes for sports and fitness walking, his flip flops can continue to provide the guidance your feet need to correct for overpronation. Orthaheel has both beach styles of flip flops and dress styles for those parties around the shrimp on the barbie.
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