Flip Flop Fracture: Summer favorite can cause foot problems

Sarah Mitchell has a hitch in her get along--and a foot brace that she'd like to give the boot.

In early spring her left foot started killing her--she thought it was a bunion but then it got swollen so she went to the doctor.

"I kept thinking, did I hit myself or anything?” Sarah recalled. “Then he (the doctor) mentioned flip-flops and I was like I do a lot of walking in flip-flops, up hills, on rocks. It could have happened any of those times."

Sarah has 20 pairs of flip-flops--one for class, one for hiking, you get the point.

She wore them all the time—until she went to Forest Park Medical Center podiatrist Alex Garcia.

"The foot wants to stretch out,” Dr. Garcia said. “In a closed shoe it will be protected, with flip-flops there is nothing to help the foot."

Dr. Garcia put two and two together and diagnosed Sarah with flip-flop induced stress fracture.

"I do see quite a bit of patients during the summer that present with problems caused by flip-flops," Dr. Garcia said.

Problems like tendonitis, heel pain and even trauma. Amazingly some people even do yard work in flip-flops.

"Walking outside you trip on the sidewalk in a closed shoe that would do nothing,” Dr. Garcia said. “With flip-flops you can actually scrape your toes up and I see a lot of toe fractures as well."

Sadly the best part about flip-flops is also the worst part about flip-flops. In the summertime they're cool and comfortable but that also means they offer very little support.  According to the American Podiatric Medical Association no shoe of any kind should fold in half.

"Even on a 21 year old the bones are not designed to withstand the concrete everyday with just a small piece of rubber on the foot,” Dr. Garcia said.

Sarah said she was stunned when she learned her stress fracture was flip-flop caused.

"Yeah,” Sarah said. “When he said flip-flops can cause stress fractures I was like, wow."

Dr. Garcia said leather flip-flops are better than soft rubber but still should not be worn for long periods of time.

Or in Sarah's case--hiking and playing basketball.

"I’m going to stay away from flip-flops," Sarah said.