Coach Mike Mead

August 2008

Flip-Flop hazards for Runners Feet

About three years ago I wrote in this space a column on foot care. We runners tend to take our feet for granted until things like blisters; athlete’s foot and the like slow our running. In that column (October, 2005) of a few years back, I mentioned that going barefoot or wearing flip-flops now and then can be good for your feet. If you value your feet, you need to re-think about wearing flip-flops and sandals.

I have traveled a bunch the past three months and have been through several airports. I was amazed at the number of folks wearing flip-flops or flimsy sandals. Of course, most of these folks are not runners, but all the same they are leaving their feet very vulnerable to all sorts of hazards.

In my previous column I mentioned one of my runners slicing his foot open once while exiting a van. Well, one of my female runners earlier this summer cut her foot taking the trash out while wearing sandals. The cut was such that it sidelined her from running for about five weeks!

My father, rest his soul, told me stories of how he spent most of his summers barefooted as a youth. Of course, he grew up on a farm with lots of sand and dirt. In today’s “disposable society” we’re more prone to finding broken glass left by knuckleheads who toss bottles out their car windows, plus there is a lot more asphalt and concrete around than 50 years ago.

Flip-flops were not designed the way a lot of people wear them these days. My understanding is that the flip-flop was invented to protect one’s feet when at the beach to get from the car, across the sand, to where they planned to spend their time on the shore.

There are casual shoes and then there are flop-flops. Today, too many folks are wearing flip-flops and sandals for inappropriate wear, such as walking the airports and malls of America. The flap-flap-flap sound that many flip-flop wearers make must add to the noise pollution. Besides the hazards of slicing one’s foot open, I think of the dangers of wearing said footwear, just like in high heels, when women can be vulnerable to attacks by predators.

How about those people who have smelly feet or foot fungus? I was quite amused of the folks wearing flip-flops and sandals going through the TSA security checkpoints at the airports this summer. For those who do not fly, everyone going through airport security must remove their footwear and run them through the X-Ray machine with their other belongings. For a minute or two, those wearing flip-flops and sandals are barefooted. With the 1,000’s of folks going through security everyday in this manner, let’s just say you would not want to eat off the floor let alone leave your naked feet exposed to whatever.

Perhaps I am overreacting. The point I’m really trying to get at is that if you value your feet, you want to keep them protected. Wear the flip-flops at the beach or around the house, but not at the airport or mall as everyday footwear.

I’ve never thought flip-flops or sandals to be very attractive on most people’s feet. It is made worse by folks with ugly feet. And many distance runners who I’ve know over the years do not have pretty feet. That’s why socks were invented. Happy trails!