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Why Runners Shouldn’t Wear Flip-Flops

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For Priya Parthasarathy, a podiatrist in Silver Spring, Md., August and September aren’t just the transition from summer into fall. Instead, she calls that time of year “plantar fasciitis season”

The culprit? Flip-flops.

“Everyone’s been wearing flip-flops all summer,” said Dr. Parthasarathy, a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association. “We have so many people come in the door.”

I get why people love flip-flops. I went to college in Florida and spent a good chunk of my pre-running, writing years covering the Jersey Shore, and wore them all the time. Flip-flops are easy to take on and off, usually cheap and come in a million patterns and colors.

They’re also terrible for your feet — especially if you’re a runner.

[Read more about plantar fasciitis. | Try this stretch to help relieve it.]

“Flip-flops don’t provide any support. There’s no structure,” Dr. Parthasarathy said. “Your feet have to work much harder to grip the flip-flop.”

That means you’re overusing your muscles, especially in the posterior compartment of the leg, where a lot of your running muscles are located, she said. “If your feet are working so hard during the day, then you go for a run, it’s extra stress on all your muscles and ligaments.”

That doesn’t mean runners can’t wear any sandals — sometimes it’s a requirement if you smash up your toes, or your feet swell because of a hot run. And if you shower in locker rooms or other places where a lot of other people do, flip-flops can offer some protection against athlete’s foot.

Dr. Parthasarathy, who is also a runner, opts for Birkenstocks, which have structure to them (I’m a fan too, preferring the new candy-colored, water-friendly ones, while Dr. Parthasarathy is all about cork).

If you don’t want to wear what my mother still calls “hippie shoes,” look for a sandal that you can’t easily bend in half. Also, something with a strap that goes across the back of your foot will mean less stress on your muscles (though she adds something like a Birkenstock has enough structure in the rest of the shoe that it’s not necessary).

When I want that kind of strap support, I opt for Chacos (I bought mine for hiking the Narrows at Zion National Park and they scream “I like hiking and the outdoors no matter how weird my sandals look!” but Chacos just released solid color versions that I find very tempting and has customizable options).

(No, I’m not being paid to talk about these brands, and these aren’t affiliate links. I just like the shoes.)

My go-to post-running shoe is still another pair of running shoes, especially now that I’m running again post-stress fracture. But what open-toed shoes do you wear, runners, if you wear them at all? Let me know — I’m @byjenamiller on Twitter.

My mom likes the bumpy Adidas Adissage Slides, which hurt my feet (but this is an opportunity to wish a very happy Mother’s Day to the toughest lady I know — because her feet can stand up to those shoes, and for a lot of other reasons). If you are celebrating a mom in your life, you might want to try out a recipe from this Mother’s Day collection from The Times’s cooking section.

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