By Blythe Bernhard

(MCT)

Flip-flops aren't just hazardous to politicians — they also pose risks for your feet. The floppy footwear, once contained to the beach, can now be spotted year-round.

That's a problem, say foot specialists.

Most flip-flops offer no arch support and cause people to alter their gait because of the extra work it takes to keep them on.

Podiatrists say they see more complaints of plantar fasciitis (heel pain and inflammation) during the summer months, particularly after people get back from vacation.

But aside from any dress code or etiquette violations, flip-flops aren't so bad for anyone with perfect feet. "Usually if you don't have underlying issues and you're somewhat sensible about it you can get away with wearing sandals more often," Anderson said.

BETTER THAN BAREFOOT

Flip-flops can even be protective by preventing people from stepping directly on glass or rocks and by keeping feet free of plantar warts and athlete's foot infections that can be contracted in public areas.

But anyone with flat feet, high arches, bunions, hammertoes or other foot issues can be at risk for exacerbating their problems by wearing flip-flops.

Flip-flops should also be avoided by anyone with diabetes or circulation problems because symptoms can include a lack of sensation in the feet. Any cuts or abrasions might not be noticed and can lead to infections.

Podiatrists say that people with knee, hip or back problems need to wear more supportive shoes so they don't aggravate their injuries.

When wearing flip-flops, the stride is shorter and the foot rolls inward because of the lack of support. The front of the foot doesn't come up as high when the leg swings forward and the heel hits the ground with less force. Toes curl up to grip the shoe and keep it from slipping off.

All of that can cause overpronation, where the foot rolls inward too far and doesn't absorb enough shock, leading to pain and tendinitis.

In general, the cheaper the flip-flops, the worse they'll be for your feet.

The association approves of certain brands of flip-flops, including Chaco, Sole, FitFlop, Vasyli and Wolky.

To further enhance the safety of flip-flops, only wear them for short periods and replace them every three to four months.