Flip-flops are synonymous with warm weather and convenience, but they’re also associated with sciatic pain. Read on to learn more about how flip-flops can aggravate your sciatica symptoms.
How can flip-flops aggravate your sciatica?
Your sciatica symptoms arise when 1 of the 5 sciatic nerve roots near your lower spine is compressed or irritated. Ordinarily, an underlying medical condition is to blame for symptoms like the burning sensation in your calf or numbness in your foot—but walking in your flip-flops can also aggravate your sciatica.
When you walk in flip-flops, you typically curl your toes to keep your sandals from slipping off your feet.1 Walking with curled toes shortens your strides and decreases the amount of time your feet are in contact with the ground. In turn, these changes to your gait may aggravate your sciatica by increasing the pressure on your lower spine.
Do you have to stop wearing flip-flops?
Flip-flops may not only provoke your sciatica, but they’re also associated with a number of foot and ankle problems. Because of this, it’s a smart idea to give up flip-flops altogether. But if you’re not ready to go cold turkey, here’s how you can minimize the negative impact of flip-flops:
- Limit the amount of time you wear flip-flops. In general, you can avoid sciatic pain if you only wear your flip-flops for short periods of time. So if you’re walking from your car to the beach you will likely be okay—but avoid wearing flip-flops to all-day events like a trip to the amusement park.
- Purchase a rigid pair of flip-flops. It is easier to curl your toes with a flexible pair of flip-flops. To help minimize your sciatic pain, purchase a rigid pair of flip-flops—or ditch your flip-flops altogether and try a pair of sandals with adjustable straps.
- Never run. As bad as walking in flip-flops can be for your sciatica, running is typically worse. Avoid increased pressure on your lower back by always walking at a moderate pace in your flip-flops.
For your everyday footwear needs, avoid flip-flops and instead find shoes that support the arches of your feet and your ankles—and make sure to avoid high-heeled shoes and sandals.
- AJ Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2010 Jul-Aug;100(4):251-7. PMID: 20660875.