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Many people have the idea that walking and running barefoot is the best thing for us and undoubtedly if our lives supported that kind of lifestyle, we would probably have a lot fewer foot problems. But in the Western world, we are brought up wearing shoes from an early age, and for that reason most of us need to continue to do so.
We all like to kick off our shoes at home or on the beach and waddle about in socks or barefoot, but for the majority of the time our feet are in shoes. And in terms of footcare, what you do for the majority of the time is what really matters.
So what sort of shoes are best for us? Possibly not what you think!
Take flip-flops for example
Many assume that there is nothing better for feet than flip-flops since they’re soft, flat and do not enclose the foot. In fact they have a lot wrong with them and should only be worn occasionally. The main issues are that the soles can easily be punctured by sharp objects – most of us have had a stone stuck in the sole of one. Unfortunately because people leave litter on beaches, broken glass and other sharp objects are often to be found there which will easily pierce the sole of a flip-flop.
They also offer no cushioning from the shock of walking on hard surfaces like the sidewalk. When we walked on yielding surfaces like sand and mud, the foot’s in-built shock-absorption was perfectly adequate.
The other issue with flip-flops is that you have to maintain your toes in a curled position in order to hang on to them, because they do not fit around the foot and have no fastening. This means that if worn regularly for prolonged periods your toes are permanently flexed, leading to shortening of the tendons underneath them. So you end up with ‘clawed’ (permanently curled) toes.
Curling the toe raises the height of the bony toe joints, so that they will be rubbed by other shoes which enclose the foot. This will lead to the development of callus (hard skin) and corns (painful circular patches of hard skin with a central hard core) on top of the toes, which are unsightly as well as uncomfortable.
This leads to strain in the Achilles tendon or adapting walking style to overcome not being able to get the heel to the ground.
So keep your flip-flops for occasional short periods of wear only, and only in your garden or around the pool.