Are Your Flip Flops Causing Back Pain?


Nothing says summer quite like throwing on your flip flops to run errands. They’re light, easy and make us feel ready to go to the beach at any moment.

Unfortunately, flip flops also have a downside. While they’re cute and convenient, wearing them for any length of time can lead to bunions, hammer toes , foot pain, low back pain, Achilles tendon issues and more.

How are flip flops affecting my walking?

When we walk our heel strikes the ground and we roll through the rest of our foot as we “toe off” and take a step forward. This motion allows us to have a smooth, effortless stride as we propel ourselves down the street, keeping the muscles of the feet, legs, hips and lower back aligned. When we walk properly it releases tension from our legs and lower back, helping to keep them healthy.

Imagine, instead of a relaxed foot gliding along the ground in your running shoes you put on flip flops…footwear that won’t actually stay on unless you grab it with your toes with every step. Try taking a few steps in your flip flops with perfectly relaxed feet and you’ll notice that you accidentally kick them across the room pretty quickly.

Flip flop wearing may feel free and easy, but in reality we’re all tensing up our feet just to keep them on!

How does that hurt my lower back?

This altered gait pattern results in a shorter stride and causes a chain reaction that builds tension in the feet, legs, hips and lower back.

This also causes your weight to shift to the front of the foot, altering your posture and increasing the strain on your lower back. When this occurs your calves and hamstrings tighten and your lower back and knees start to ache.

Studies show that not only can wearing flip flops make your low back ache, they can also exacerbate the symptoms of sciatica.

I don’t mean to be hard on the beloved flip flop…this same issue can be caused by any footwear that has no strap around the back of the foot that keeps it secure. Even Birkenstocks can cause these issues if they aren’t very secure on your feet (and don’t get me started about slip on crocs 🙂 )

How do flip flops contribute to foot pain?

Most flip flops also have extremely poor arch support. The combination of the tension created in your feet and ankles and the lack of support often leads to plantar fasciitis and heel pain…something many doctors refer to as “flip flops syndrome”

What about the new “orthopaedic flip flops?”

There are many new types of flip flops on the market that have an arch support and some cushioning incorporated in the shoe. That’s definitely better but the issues caused by the gripping of your feet is still significant. There are times when a slip on shoe is convenient and necessary, but the issues associated with walking in flip flops can still lead to unwanted tension and pain in your back.

So… no sandals?

Not at all!

Any sandal that has a small ankle strap (that goes around the back of your heel) securing the shoe to your foot is ideal. Of course the more support and cushioning the better but that one extra strap securing the sandal to your foot allows your feet to relax and your gait to return to normal.

In the meantime if your lower back is sore or your calves and hamstrings feel tight try some of the stretches below:

So enjoy your flip flops when you’re going to the beach or are planning to hang out by the pool. But for your errands grab any type of sandal with a strap around the back of your heel and your back will definitely thank you.

Here are some of our favourites summer sandals:

I really like this alternative to flip flops, and if you’re looking for an alternative to Birks or Crocs I’m a fan of Tevas, Naot or even these Steve Madden for something a bit dressier.

Dr. Laina Shulman

Dr. Laina Shulman

Dr. Laina Shulman is the co-founder of Pure-Health Wellness, a practicing chiropractor, and the Director of Shulman Weight Loss London. With a belief that wellness is the foundation of a fulfilling life, she empowers her patients with simple strategies to regain and maintain their health.