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Bare feet against a blue sky

There’s a particular type of shoe that’s pretty much synonymous with summer. Inexpensive and versatile, why shouldnt’t they be, right?

Umm…maybe not.

Studies show that despite their extreme popularity, flip-flops use can cause a range of physical problems, including plantar fasciitis, pain – and even bacterial infections.

Why The Pain?

In one study, researchers compared the effects of wearing flip-flops and athletic shoes on 39 male and female college students. The flip-flop wearers took shorter steps and struck their heel to the ground with less vertical force than when in sneakers, causing their gaits to sway away from their natural rhythm. Even though there was some cushioning benefit, studies show that an unnatural gait can lead to pain in the feet, legs and lower back.

Among the most common flip-flop injuries is plantar faciitis, which is an inflammation of the connective tissue along the bottom of the foot. This acute pain can become a chronic problem over time.

…And The Bacteria?

A 2009 report from the TODAY show and the University of Miami found that your favorite flips were home to more than 18,00 types of bacteria, including Staphyloccus aureus…even bacteria from fecal matter. Eww.

If You Absolutely Must Wear Flip Flops (Or Similarly-Structured Sandals)

According to Prevention, there are some simple steps (pun!) you should take when dealing with those flips:

Replace. Replace flip-flops every three to four months, and only wear them for short periods of time.

Consider leather. A high-quality pair of leather flip-flops is more likely to be more comfortable on your feet.

Watch the fit. Your heels and toes shouldn’t hang off the edges. Also, flip-flops should bend at the ball of the foot, and not at the arch.

Do some research. Look for sandals approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association.

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