Flip flops without arch support are an unwise choice of footwear

 

While towering stilettos may be the worst offenders when it comes to causing foot pain, they're at least stylish and sexy – which is more than can be said for flip flops. These noisy rubber sandals really have nothing to offer, unless you're trying to avoid foot fungus in a public shower.

In fact, an analysis by researchers at Auburn University's Department of Kinesiology showed exactly why flip flops are a poor choice of shoes.

Clinical evidence that flip flops are a pain in the feet

Authors of the study – which was presented at a meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine – examined the biomechanics of 39 volunteers, half of whom wore sneakers and the remainder wore flip flops. They found that when wearing the latter, individuals tend to walk differently than they would in more supportive footwear.

"We found that when people walk in flip flops, they alter their gait, which can result in problems and pain from the foot up into the hips and lower back," said study co-author Justin Shroyer, Ph.D., as quoted in The New York Times.

Specifically, people had a tendency to grip the flip flops with their toes, pointing them downward as they step forward. (Anyone who's ever tripped in thong sandals knows how this goes down, and it ain't pretty, because it can cause you to twist your ankle, stub your toe on the ground or even fall.) Additionally, flip flop wearers didn't exert as much force on their heel when landing, compared to people in sneakers.

Sandals need arch support, too

If, for whatever reason, you love flip flops so much that you just can't bear the idea of a summer without them, at least be careful about what pair you select.

The Huffington Post recently published an article giving seven tips for healthy feet, one of which was to avoid wearing flip flops – go figure. However, an expert gave some tips for thong enthusiasts on how to choose a pair that may minimize foot pain.

"Not all flip flops are created equally," said podiatrist and American Podiatric Medical Association spokesperson Jane Anderson, quoted by The HuffPo.

She suggested looking for a pair of sandals that has arch support, a sturdy sole and thick straps, which may help reduce the toe-grip effect and keep the footwear in place.
 

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Trendy sneakers are a welcome respite for women with foot pain

 

While there's nothing quite like a nice tall pair of heels to add grace and stature, it's not exactly practical to be hobbling around in stilettos day-in and day-out, as any woman with a bunion will tell you. Luckily, today's sneakers are colorful, stylish and sleek – nothing like the plain white tennis shoes that may have been forced upon you as a child.

Go Chanel or go home

Athletic shoes today aren't just a practical option, as some models are downright fashion-forward. For example, Karl Lagerfeld sent models donning pastel wigs and flatform sneakers – they're also known as "creepers," and have a relatively high, flat platform – around the gardens of Versailles at a recent Chanel show.

According to a report in UK news source the Mirror, creepers became a trend in London brothels during the 1940s, and were a staple among British Teddy Boys in the 1950s, who were part of a subculture that preferred Edwardian dress to the more popular apparel of the era. In the 1970s, high-end designer Vivienne Westwood made them a staple for the punk generation.

Preventing foot pain never looked so good

For those who prefer a look that's more street chic than high-fashion, the new Kenzo x Vans sneakers have a more subtle flatform paired with a classic upper and made stylish with a graphic, colorful print. Grazia magazine recently ran a feature on the shoes, reporting that retailers are already selling out of the line.

"The range features the graphic net print the duo [of designers] has already made a signature in super-clashing red, green, blue, yellow and cream," according to Grazia.

Not just for marathoners

Sporty girls might be excited to know that the Nike Free sneaker – one of many minimalist models currently on the market – is now considered a full-on trend, as reported by Bloomberg News. In fact, sales of the shoes have risen 14 percent in the past year, and, according to the news source, those numbers are expected to continue to rise. Bloomberg spoke to research analyst Marshal Cohen about the trend.

"We've seen the running-shoe business become a fashion business, as well as a comfort and innovation business," said Cohen, quoted by the news source. "When you put that together, that's a positive perfect storm."

With any luck, women who have dealt with poor arch support and squished toes for years will finally find relief from foot pain by slipping into a hot new pair of sneakers.

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Knowing how to walk in heels may stave off foot pain

 

One surefire way to separate the girls from the women is to put them in a pair of high heels. The latter will instantly gain a regal stature and a graceful gait, while the former are likely to lean forward when they walk and develop what I call "Bambi legs." But fret not, my kittens, as Bunionella is here to help teach you how to walk in a pair of big-girl shoes.

The first step is knowing your feet, as well as being aware of what constitutes a well-made heel. In an article in Australian news source The Sydney Morning Herald, Edeltraud Breitenberger, a trainer who teaches people how to walk in pumps, explained that there are specific rules of thumb to follow.

First, the German instructor told the news source that the heel should stem from directly below the sole, as this position provides the best support. If the heel is positioned too far back, the body will naturally lean too far forward when standing or walking, which can be a real pain in the feet, not to mention the back, knees and hips.

She also said that ladies with small feet should choose a shorter heel, and that a strong big toe is key to balancing in high heels. (This means that bunions are likely to interfere with stability while walking in heels. As such, it's recommended that women with the bony foot deformity pick shoes with a low, stable heel and a roomy toe box.)

"The big toe is the boss of the high heels," said Breitenberger, quoted by the news source.

Once you've found cute, comfy heels that suit your feet, it's time to get walking. InStyle magazine outlined four steps to exhibiting a graceful gait in pumps.

1. Be mindful of your posture, keeping head and shoulders back and engaging core muscles to take some strain off the feet and legs.

2. Take short steps and avoid trying to roll your foot from heel to toe, as this may result in a twisted ankle. Instead, try to land with the bottom of your shoe striking the ground evenly.

3. Spread the toes as you step down in order to maintain stability and distribute pressure on the ball of the foot.

4. Let the hips sway in a gentle figure-8, rather than keeping them stiff, which can wrench your back and make you look unnatural when you walk.

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Total foot care may help you battle foot pain

If you're like many other women, you probably hit the gym to keep excess pounds at bay, have an intense grooming routine, choose comfy yet stylish clothing and allow yourself some alone time to soak in the tub and melt away stress. But are you applying this kind of total care to your feet?

Just like any other part of your body, your feet need exercise, regular cleaning, support and stress relief. Otherwise, you may end up with bunions, fallen arches, infected toenails or just plain ugly feet.

Work those feet

It may not occur to you that your feet need exercise because they seem to do enough work just carrying you from point A to point B. However, simple walking isn't enough – your tootsies need targeted stretching and strengthening exercises.

One simple thing you can do while watching TV is to simply stretch your toes out for 5 to 10 seconds, then squeeze them in for the same length of time. Ten sets of this exercise on each side should be adequate. Also try moving your ankles in circles clockwise and counter-clockwise to keep them flexible and strong. You may also find it beneficial to practice grabbing a towel with your toes for added strength.

And scrub 'em good, too!

Feet with dead skin and calluses are better off hidden by sneakers. If you want to bare your toes this summer, invest in a good scrub, a foot brush and a pumice stone, making sure to exfoliate at least once a week.

A quick at-home treatment requires little more than a tub, some Epsom salts and thick lotion. Soak your feet in hot – but not scalding – water and a pound of salts, as the minerals will dissolve and provide a soothing feeling while they neutralize bacteria. Give them a quick scrub, dry off with a soft towel and slather on a luxurious cream for the prettiest feet in all the land.

Don't abuse with shoes

Teetering around in heels may give you legs for days, but it may also leave you with bunions and corns. Luckily, this is easily avoidable by choosing more sensible footwear. If the thought makes you cringe, keep in mind that ballet flats with arch support and wedge heels are stylish options that won't cause you foot pain.

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Survey reveals foot pain is sweeping the nation

 

Perhaps it's time to recognize how much our feet do for us. They literally bear all of our weight, get pinched into too-tight shoes and we expect them to deal with the stresses of running around town all day and night. All the while, they rarely get so much as a foot rub or some comfy orthotics to absorb some of the shock of hitting the pavement umpteen times a day.

However, when foot conditions are neglected, they can come back to bite us.

A recent study commissioned by Merck revealed that 91 percent of Americans have had some kind of foot pain in their lives – likely stemming from overuse, bunions, fallen arches, etc. – and 56 percent of them have had to sit out of athletics or other activities as a result of their lower extremity conditions.

Foot pain gets in the way of taking extra steps

One of the most widely distributed pieces of advice for people to get more exercise is to make small efforts like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and walking to nearby destinations rather than driving. However, foot problems appear to be a barrier to these activities.

The survey showed that about half of U.S. adults skip the stairwell and go straight for the elevator when there's a choice, and a whopping 78 percent of respondents reported driving to locations where walking would have been feasible.

Good news for comfy shoes

Researchers also asked the respondents about the shoes they wear on an average day. The results reveal that Americans may be pretty sensible when it comes to footwear, aiming for a balance between comfort and style.

A total of 86 percent of women said that they would pick shoes that are easy on their feet over a pair of trendy, towering heels. However, 58 percent of ladies also said they wear high heels at least once a week.

On some days, you may just want to say, "To heck with the office dress code" and toss on a pair of sneakers. And you wouldn't be alone, either, as the survey showed that 69 percent of workers have donned shoes that are too casual for work, simply because the footwear was the most comfortable option. 

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For some, bunions are just another part of getting older

 

A small percentage of ladies I know are lucky enough to have avoided the gray hair, crow's feet and weight gain that often come along with aging. However, their true age becomes apparent when looking at them below the ankles, as feet plagued with bunions, fungus-ridden toenails, corns, calluses and hammer toe are all signs that a person is past their prime.

Feet that have carried people for decades as they trotted about town in towering stilettos – or even the most sensible shoes – are unlikely to hide their age, and Botox can't help you here, ladies. Every step you take, every move you make, your feet are feeling it.

So what exactly happens as you get older? A number of things, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. Perhaps the most significant change is the weakening of the tendons and ligaments that hold bones and joints in place. Basically, there's only so much these connectors (think of them as rubber bands of varying size and strength) can take, and once they stretch to capacity, they lose their ability to expand and contract – actions that are integral to the movement and support of the foot, the news source reported.

Once the connective tissue loses its flexibility, the foot starts to spread because it can no longer handle the weight and motion of the body the way it once did – say, in one's 20s or 30s.

You know where I'm going with this, ladies: Your feet will get bigger – meaning you'll need to ditch your favorite shoes – as you age, and taking care of them is oh-so important to making the problems stop there.

Continue wearing size seven shoes when you're actually an eight, and you're liable to develop bunions, hammer toe, fallen arches, corns and calluses. This is because shoes that are too tight don't properly support the foot and cause friction.

It may seem obvious to you that wearing well-fitted, supportive shoes can promote foot health as you age. People entering their golden years may also consider non-invasive means of bunion correction, because podiatrist Leonard Vekkos recently told the Chicago Tribune that bunion surgery should be a last-resort option.

"Addressing these issues depends on the symptoms and how much it impacts quality of life. I am not a believer in performing cosmetic foot surgery because of the potential complications," Vekkos said, quoted by the news source.

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How to tell your friends they need bunion correction

 

This past weekend, I had a girls night in with a dear friend of mine. As we sipped wine and talked about work, love and shoes, I looked down at her feet – which are typically clad in stilettos – and noticed that the poor girl has bunions.

You can imagine my conflicted feelings about broaching the embarrassing topic. On the one hand, I have my own foot pain issues to share. On the other, she could easily take offense to my boldness at pointing out her bony deformities.

I waited, downed another glass of pinot noir and made my case for non-invasive bunion correction.

Why you can't ignore bunions

I gently let my friend know that foot conditions like bunions, as well as hammer toe and fallen arches, are almost guaranteed to get worse if they're not treated. At first, the little bump on the inside edge of your foot is just a cosmetic issue that restricts the types of shoes you can wear – a fact which caused her a startle.

Once bunions become advanced, they can reduce flexibility in your foot and even change the way you walk – an effect that can lead to a number of other lower extremity problems. Worse yet, the pain can get to a degree that it keeps you from exercising or just carrying out everyday tasks, as in, buh-bye marathon shopping trips.

Non-invasive is the way to go

In general, elective surgery has risks that potentially outweigh benefits, which we are reminded of when watching the cast of Real Housewives of Orange County. Infection, scarring, over-correction and recurrence of bumps following bunion surgery are known to occur in an estimated one in 10 patients, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Moreover, bunion splints and orthotics have been shown to do the job, so why resort to going under the knife? I showed my chum my beloved Bunion Aid, which keeps my bony deformities in check but still allows me to move about the house while I'm wearing it, thanks to its hinged design.

It's all in the shoes

Finally, I had to break it to my dear friend that she needs to lay off the stilettos from time to time, as these shoes are known to exacerbate bunions and hammer toe. I even offered to help her go shopping for some cute flats or loafers – noting that we'll need to pick a pair with a roomy toe box and good arch support.

Remember, readers: Friends don't let friends walk around with bunions. 

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London Design Museum features exhibit on weapon-like Louboutins

We talk a lot on this blog about how teetering around all day in towering Christian Louboutins can exacerbate foot problems like bunions or hammer toe. But the shoes he's got displayed at the London Design Museum look like they're capable of far more than causing foot pain – some of them look like they could kill a man.

The Huffington Post, along with other media outlets, reported on the exhibit, which features metallic heels with spikes jutting out of the back, stilettos with spikes in place of a platform and sandals with a broken cage over the forefoot.

"While admiring the beautiful works of shoe art that were on display in London, we couldn't help but notice how dangerous some of the Louboutins shoes are!" the HuffPo reported. "Yes, dangerous, and we're not talking because of the heel size."

The exhibit runs until July 9, and also includes displays on how Louboutin's design process works and shoe production, from the making of a prototype to mass production in a factory.

UK news source Metro reported on the exhibit as well, touting it as a presentation of "burlesque, circus, sex and bondage."

"Carousels, mirrored shelves (to reflect back Louboutin's signature red soles) and velvet frame 200 of his creations, in segments that examine his devotion to artisanal skills, the chaos of his work space and the building of a shoe," the Metro reported.

At the end of the exhibit, patrons are treated to a hologram performance by burlesque star Dita Von Teese.

While promoting the show, Louboutin spoke to Reuters about his ongoing legal battle with Yves St. Laurent over his trademarked red sole featured on every pair of his footwear. A judge has ruled that Louboutin doesn't have a right to monopolize the use of cherry-hued soles, and the designer subsequently filed an appeal. The suit is still in the Court of Appeals.

The designer also told Reuters addressed his previous comments that high heels are supposed to be painful, and that women who can't handle the discomfort shouldn't wear the towering footwear.

"When I do a shoe, I don't want to evoke comfort…saying that suffering to be beautiful, it doesn't work. It doesn't give you nice smiles, that's a sure thing," said Louboutin, quoted by Reuters.

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