Flip-flops causing slips and trips -- and serious injuries

The flimsy summer footwear has become a wardrobe staple, creating what some consider to be a major safety hazard.

By Susan J. Landers — Posted Sept. 3, 2007

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As the cool autumn replaces summer's swelter, health care professionals, especially those who focus on foot health, will be relieved to see flip-flops' prime time fade.

This summer has been the season of the flip-flop, particularly among women ages 25 to 35, said Harold B. Glickman, DPM, past president of the American Podiatric Medical Assn.

The ubiquitous footwear, once only seen at the beach or pool, has become acceptable workplace attire, Dr. Glickman lamented.

"They really give no support to the foot and ankle. They are dangerous in the sense that if caught in an intersection with the light changing and having to run, you can fall, slip and really injure yourself," he said. "And not just your foot and ankle, but the rest of your body, too."

Stubbed and broken toes and ripped-off toenails have been seen too often this summer. "A lot more discretion should be used in wearing them," Dr. Glickman said.

Marc A. Brenner, DPM, chief and founder of the Institute for Diabetic Foot Research in Glendale, N.Y., believes that flip-flops may have a place at the beach, but he recommends changing into running shoes afterwards. "The foot is a masterpiece of technology, and you need to pamper it like you do your face and hair."

But that masterpiece is in danger of being destroyed by flimsy skips. "I must have seen seven fifth or fourth metatarsal fractures this week," Dr. Brenner said. "I see a lot of fractures because people are sliding out of [their flip-flops] or they shift or turn." In contrast, "My laced running shoe is locked onto my foot."

As for that other shoe of summer, Crocs, there is good news. Despite news stories about the soft, often vividly hued, plastic shoes getting caught in escalators, they are generally regarded as safe and certainly better than flip-flops. "I don't know that I would wear them 24/7," Dr. Glickman said, "but I do wear them around the house and for garden work."

They provide good traction and may even be a good substitute for sneakers because they aren't as confining, Dr. Glickman said.

"I am pro-Croc," Dr. Brenner said. Although running shoes are tops in his estimate, Crocs are still "80% better than flip-flops." But on the down side, "I think they are very ugly."

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