Health & Medicine

Lexington podiatrist sees plenty of flip-flop injuries

Kathryn Murray, left and Sammie Manley wore flipflops to the Lexington Catholic vs Tates Creek 43rd district final baseball game at Lexington Catholic in  in Lexington, Ky., on Thursday May 26, 2011.  Tates Creek won 4-2.
Kathryn Murray, left and Sammie Manley wore flipflops to the Lexington Catholic vs Tates Creek 43rd district final baseball game at Lexington Catholic in in Lexington, Ky., on Thursday May 26, 2011. Tates Creek won 4-2.

It's common this time of year for Dr. Heather Whitesel, a podiatrist at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, to see patients with problems linked to their love affair with flip-flops.

Many people suffer injuries during the transition from closed-toed shoes in the winter to flip-flops when warmer weather returns.

She said some people switch shoe types too quickly, pick the wrong footwear for their body or foot types, or wear flip-flops during inappropriate times. Injuries she has treated range from tendonitis to stress fractures, and they have included crush injuries and amputations.

"While I do not recommend any one brand or type of shoe, ... many of my patients have found Chaco and Keen sport sandals helpful for their arch support and the toe guard on the Keen sandals," Whitesel said. She suggested the Web site Apma.org/flip-flops-2011 for a list of flip-flops recommended by the American Podiatric Medical Association, along with helpful tips for summer flip-flop treks.

She cautioned that people should never wear flip-flops while doing lawn work, walking long distances or playing sports.

Emily Ludwig, 19, a University of Kentucky student from Southgate in Northern Kentucky, said she routinely wore flip-flops to basketball practice in high school but was chased one day by a dog.

"I ripped right through the flip-flop and had to go barefoot the rest of the time," Ludwig said.

People also should be careful wearing them while carrying heavy objects, Whitesel said.

"Many college students come in with flip-flop-related injuries when they load up their backpacks with books and notebooks and wear flip-flops or shoes without any arch support," she said.

Dr. Steven Lawrence, an orthopedic surgeon at UK, suggested that people wear them at pools or on beaches, but not all summer long.

"I only use them a couple of hours at a time," he said.

For some people, though, they're so comfortable or trendy that they demand more appearances. Just ask Stacee Hord, 21, a Bluegrass Community and Technical College student.

"I wore them to my high school graduation and they looked terrible with my cap and gown," she said. "Everyone else was in high heels, and I was in flip-flops."

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