By Kay Quinn, Healthbeat Reporter
St. Louis, MO (KSDK) -- They're everywhere and it seems everyone is wearing them. But could your flip flops be setting you up for some big foot problems?
One local podiatrist says yes.
"Flip flops, I'd wear them everywhere, drive with them and everything," said 19-year-old Ashley Ray. But not anymore.
Ray needed surgery for her fallen arches and her doctor said her excessive flip-flop wear contributed to her foot problems.
"I've been through so much pain and so much stuff right now," Ray said. "It's just healing, going to physical therapy."
"A lot of people don't realize it's not supposed to be painful," said Dr. Amy Balettie, a podiatrist with Foot Healers in Webster Groves.
According to Dr. Balettie, flip flops offer absolutely no support or protection for the feet, which can lead not only to arch problems, but everything from blisters to strains, sprains and trouble with the ankle or the Achilles tendon.
"I also think sure if we had a flip flop race at Forest Park, the majority of the people, probably two-thirds, would come out with some sort of foot problem," Dr. Balettie said.
And when it comes to flip flops, not all are created equal. Cheap ones offer the least support. Dr. Balettie said in this case, expensive really might be better.
"They're going to be more expensive, but they will have some arch support, they'll have a thicker sole, the thong part will not be plastic, it will be more of a leather or neoprene material," says Dr. Balettie.
So does Dr. Balettie wear flip flops?
"I do wear them in short stints," she said.
Which she said is key. If you're going to the mall, grocery shopping or are going to be on your feet for a long time, wear a tennis shoe or something with more support.
"If it looks cute, that's fine," said Ray. "I tell my friends, that's going to hurt you after a while. I'd keep the tennis shoes on."
So when should you see a foot doctor?
Dr. Balettie said if your pain is persistent and does not go away after wearing more supportive shoes, it's probably time to see a specialist.