Do You Have Plantar Fasciitis? Here’s Why You Should Skip the Flip Flops This Summer


You might be reaching to the back of your closet for your flip flops, sandals, and mules this summer, but you should beware of these warm-weather shoe styles. Consistently wearing low-support footwear puts you at risk for heel pain, including conditions like plantar fasciitis. Additionally, wearing flip flops increases your risk of foot injuries, and causes balance issues, strained or overextended tendons, shooting pains, foot swelling and more.

In fact, research suggests that walking in flip-flops is far from normal. When we use our tendons and muscles to “grip” the flip-flop as we walk, it affects the windlass mechanism of the foot.

The windlass mechanism

The windlass mechanism is the movement of the medial longitudinal arch and is essential for shock absorption and dissipation of forces through foot. For example, when you push off your back foot while walking, your big toe is up, locking the arch of your foot and providing a firm platform to propel your leg forward.

Essentially, any extension of the big toe tenses the plantar fascia and locks the arch of the foot. Over time, repetitive strain can cause micro-damage to the plantar fascia resulting in heel pain.

What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is the number one cause of heel pain in adults and has been estimated to affect about two million people in the US. Plantar fasciitis affects both sedentary and athletic people and is thought to result from chronic overload either from lifestyle or exercise. So, what causes plantar fasciitis pain?

The plantar fascia ligament connects the heel bone to the toes and helps you balance your foot as you walk. When the ligament is overused it becomes painful and inflamed, causing heel pain. This condition is known as plantar fasciitis. Shoes that are too flat, like flip flops, don’t offer any arch support and can lead to inflammation in the plantar fascia ligament. Even going barefoot for long periods of time can put too much stress on your feet.

That’s why plantar fasciitis is more prevalent in the warmer months. We’re often more active in the spring and summer, taking long walks outside, going on runs, and playing outdoor sports. This increase in activity combined with wearing flip flops or going barefoot each day can worsen your plantar fasciitis pain.

What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain in your heel that usually occurs with your first steps in the morning. During sleep, the foot assumes a resting position and any accumulated micro-damage within the plantar fascia begins to heal. However, because healing cannot be fully completed during sleep, this results in re-tearing with the first step of the day. This is the hallmark of plantar fasciitis; toe or heel pain with the first step of the morning.

As you get up and move, the pain normally decreases, but it can return later after long periods of standing or sitting, or with activity like running, climbing stairs, or playing a sport where there is a lot of jumping, like basketball. If you have been experiencing plantar fasciitis heel pain for several months, there are a number of ways for you to treat your pain at home.

How to treat plantar fasciitis

The cycle of partial healing and repetitive trauma each day exacerbates the pain and inflammation of the plantar fascia. So, when we use methods to allow the plantar fascia to heal in a tensed position, the result is pain relief, decreased inflammation, and repair of the micro-damage over time. That’s why a common method for plantar fasciitis pain relief is wearing a night splint. Some other common treatments for plantar fasciitis pain include:

  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Heel and foot stretching exercises
  • Limiting physical activity
  • Wearing shoes with good arch support

Flip-flop alternatives for warm weather

A great first step for relieving plantar fasciitis heel pain is swapping out your flip flops for a shoe with better arch support. There are plenty of warm-weather footwear options that you can choose from. When shopping, look out for key features like the material, sizing, proper arch support and cushioning, and if the shoe has an ankle strap and/or toe rests. Sandals with ankle straps provide more stability and eliminate the “toe-gripping” that occurs when wearing flip flops. They’re the perfect compromise for your warm-weather shoe collection.

Get Relief from Plantar Fasciitis with PlantarTech

Ultimately, ditching your flip flops won’t make your plantar fasciitis heel pain disappear. However, there is something you can wear that can resolve your symptoms within one year of consistent use. The PlantarTech strap is a plantar fasciitis night splint that heals your plantar fascia while you sleep. Visit our How It Works page to learn more!

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