Effect of thong style flip-flops on children's barefoot walking and jogging kinematics

J Foot Ankle Res. 2013 Mar 5;6(1):8. doi: 10.1186/1757-1146-6-8.


Background: Thong style flip-flops are a popular form of footwear for children. Health professionals relate the wearing of thongs to foot pathology and deformity despite the lack of quantitative evidence to support or refute the benefits or disadvantages of children wearing thongs. The purpose of this study was to compare the effect of thong footwear on children's barefoot three dimensional foot kinematics during walking and jogging.

Methods: Thirteen healthy children (age 10.3 ± 1.6 SD years) were recruited from the metropolitan area of Sydney Australia following a national press release. Kinematic data were recorded at 200 Hz using a 14 camera motion analysis system (Cortex, Motion Analysis Corporation, Santa Rosa, USA) and simultaneous ground reaction force were measured using a force platform (Model 9281B, Kistler, Winterthur, Switzerland). A three-segment foot model was used to describe three dimensional ankle, midfoot and one dimensional hallux kinematics during the stance sub-phases of contact, midstance and propulsion.

Results: Thongs resulted in increased ankle dorsiflexion during contact (by 10.9°, p; = 0.005 walk and by 8.1°, p; = 0.005 jog); increased midfoot plantarflexion during midstance (by 5.0°, p; = 0.037 jog) and propulsion (by 6.7°, p; = 0.044 walk and by 5.4°, p;= 0.020 jog); increased midfoot inversion during contact (by 3.8°, p;= 0.042 jog) and reduced hallux dorsiflexion during walking 10% prior to heel strike (by 6.5°, p; = 0.005) at heel strike (by 4.9°, p; = 0.031) and 10% post toe-off (by 10.7°, p; = 0.001).

Conclusions: Ankle dorsiflexion during the contact phase of walking and jogging, combined with reduced hallux dorsiflexion during walking, suggests a mechanism to retain the thong during weight acceptance. Greater midfoot plantarflexion throughout midstance while walking and throughout midstance and propulsion while jogging may indicate a gripping action to sustain the thong during stance. While these compensations exist, the overall findings suggest that foot motion whilst wearing thongs may be more replicable of barefoot motion than originally thought.