Background: Flip-flops are becoming a common footwear option. Casual observation has indicated that individuals wear flip-flops beyond their structural limit and have a different gait while wearing flip-flops versus shoes. This alteration in gait may cause the anecdotal foot and lower-limb discomfort associated with wearing flip-flops.
Methods: To investigate the effect of sneakers versus thong-style flip-flops on gait kinematics and kinetics, 56 individuals (37 women and 19 men) were randomly assigned to a footwear order (flip-flops or sneakers first) and were asked to wear the assigned footwear on the day before and the day of testing. On each testing day, participants were videotaped as they walked at a self-selected pace across a force platform. A 2 (sex) x 2 (footwear) repeated-measures analysis of variance (P = .05) was used for statistical analysis.
Results: Significant interaction effects of footwear and sex were found for maximal anterior force, attack angle, and ankle angle during the swing phase. Footwear significantly affected stride length, ankle angle at the beginning of double support and during the swing phase, maximal braking impulse, and stance time. Flip-flops resulted in a shorter stride, a larger ankle angle at the beginning of double support and during the swing phase, a smaller braking impulse, and a shorter stance time compared with sneakers.
Conclusions: The effects of footwear on gait kinetics and kinematics is extensive, but there is limited research on the effect of thong-style flip-flops on gait. These results suggest that flip-flops have an effect on several kinetic and kinematic variables compared with sneakers.