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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, August 5, 2006

Podiatrists talk stink about rubber slippers

By Lindsay Lyon
Indianapolis Star

Ditch your rubber slippers for sandals? That's what podiatrists are urging.

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American Podiatric Medical Association: www.apma.org

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  • If you can wring a shoe out like a wet towel, it doesn't offer adequate side support.

  • If you can fold it in half like a pancake, then there is not enough bulk to the sole.

  • Shoes should be pliable, where the ball of the foot falls, but not at the mid-arch. Most flip-flops won't pass this test.

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    Here are some brands that carry the American Podiatric Medical Association seal of acceptance. Podiatrists say their sandals are better for your feet in the long run.

  • Crocs' Croslite

  • Chaco's Andale, Performance and Z/rivative

  • Dansko's Bay Bridge, Beacon Hill, Golden Gate, Hampton and Stapled Clog

  • The Rockport Co.'s Made to Move and World Tour Elite Sandals

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    As slippers, or flip-flops, as they are called in many Mainland locations, smack heels through every town, mall and beach this summer, podiatrists are shaking their heads particularly in places where they haven't accepted the inevitability of crowds wearing this popular footwear, as so many do in Hawai'i.

    Podiatrists say these seemingly harmless rubbery thongs make avid wearers more prone to injury. They slip off easily, don't absorb much shock and make toe-stubbing and ankle-rolling inevitable. Overuse can cause tendinitis, blistering, arch pain, sprained ankles and stress fractures. They can exacerbate existing problems such as bunions and hammer toes.

    "Flip-flops are the No. 1 culprit when it comes to people and foot ailments," says podiatrist Wendy Winckelbach. "They're great when you're in a public gym or shower and want something on your foot for protection, but they're not designed for you to run all over town in."

    Winckelbach has seen the ills these flimsy kicks bring about. One patient in her 20s was feeding a city parking meter when her slipper slid off the curb. She twisted her ankle and snapped the bone.

    "Flip-flops just don't offer a lot of protection," Winckelbach says.

    A recent influx of such ailments and injuries prompted the American Podiatric Medical Association to issue a news release urging people to ditch their slippers for more supportive sandals. Included were the results of a survey conducted to discover how many women value comfort over fashion. Just 33 percent of those asked chose comfort.

    "We'd like that number to be higher," says Dr. Harold Glickman, immediate past president of the APMA. "I realize what time of year it is, but we'd like to see more women think of comfort and shoes instead of flip-flops."

    Foot relief isn't on 12-year-old Samantha Nichols' mind. The Greenwood, Ind., girl says she owns about 20 pairs of slippers that she decorates by winding furry fabric around the tops. She wears them when she can.

    "I wear them anyway ... if my parents will let me," Samantha says. It's because they're really cute."

    Glickman exhaled deeply when he learned of Samantha's loyalty to the shoes.

    "That's about the craziest thing I've ever heard," he said.

    Texan Anita Hill, 53, says she wouldn't bash her favorite footwear. She has dropped anywhere from $1.99 to $40 for a pair. "I bet I've got like 30 pair in 26 colors," she said.

    Although Hill swears by her collection, she admits her toes sometimes get sore from gripping the bottoms too intensely.