Flip-flops, a favorite footwear for many South Floridians, are “never safe,” says Dr. Scott Strolla, a West Palm Beach podiatrist.
Yes, he actually said, “never safe.”
Strolla practices at Good Samaritan and St. Mary’s medical centers in West Palm Beach, at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center and Jupiter Medical Center.
Over the years, he’s seen many foot injuries when patients wear flip-flops, including footwear that costs several hundred dollars. He defines flip-flops as a thong sandal with only a V-strap.
Strolla divides flip-flop injuries into three types:
1. Acute: Toe fractures, nails torn off, heel pain including plantar fasciitis, puncture wounds and sunburn are the more common ones.
He talks of male patient who fractured his big toes because he wore flip-flops while dancing.
2. Chronic: Hammer toes and bunions in women. “Hammertoes are most often caused by various biomechanical abnormalities,” he says. “The most common cause is due to foot collapse due to lack of support. This causes an imbalance between muscles groups and leads to toe contracture.”
Men can develop a condition called hallux limitus, a jamming of the great toe joint because of poor foot support. “This causes a large osseous (bone) bump on the dorsal (top) of the big toe joint,” he says.
3. Catastrophic. For diabetics, wearing flip-flops can be problematic for those with neuropathy. They don’t feel or don’t heal as well as healthy people, Strolla says. Consequently when the V of a flip-flop cuts into the space between their big and index toes, they can’t feel it rubbing.
He talks about one of his diabetic patients who insisted on wearing flip-flops despite being warned against doing so. That patient, who had neuropathy, developed a deep-space infection that led to the amputation of the big toe and part of his foot, he says and sighs.
Even Jimmy Buffett knew of the dangers of flip-flops, Strolla says. He quotes these lyrics from Buffett’s Margaritaville:
“I blew out my flip-flop
Stepped on a pop-top
Cut my heel had to cruise on back home.”
Kids can wear flip-flops, but adults should limit their time in them because their feet need more support. He thinks running shoes offer the most support.
But with all that advice against wearing flip-flops, does Strolla own any flip-flops?
“Seven pairs,” he says, quickly adding “I limit the time (I wear them) to a few hours a day.”
And now, for my numbers
I had my best walking day last week on Wednesday, July 4, 2012, when I walked: