August is traditionally the month of heat and with it come a plethora of flip-flops on the streets.
I loathe and detest flip-flops, named after that unattractive sound they make when you walk.
Yet almost every other woman I bump into, even in the chilly months of June and July, is wearing a pair.
Imagine my joy when I read the latest findings on flip-flop wearing. The US National Foot Health Assessment 2012 pretty much labelled flip-flops “the root of all foot problems.”
I don’t know about you, but I have noticed something very wrong with the gait that comes with wearing sandals.
Ideally, when wearing a good shoe, you step with your heel, roll the weight forward till it settles on ball of the foot and spreads to your toes.
It is a repeated, natural, graceful motion. With flip-flops, however, you have to grip the shoe with your toes, the weight is not evenly distributed and neither does it rest fully on your foot. Your walk changes dramatically.
The main reason I hate flip-flops is that lazy shuffle-drag-pretend walk that many women employ.
The heel of the flip flop hits the ground and is dragged noisily on the surface. It is a graceless shamble.
You also can’t hurry in flip-flops. In 2008, Auburn University (in the US) researchers discovered that in sandals, your strides are shorter, something which causes an imbalance in your body placement when walking, affecting your gait and eventually hip flexion and lower back.
Aside from that, the American Medical Podiatrists Association noted that during the summer, they get more visits because flip-flops, the favoured footwear when the sun is out, cause severe pain in the arch and heel region, leading to a condition called plantar fasciitis.
The toe-gripping leads to tendinitis.
Then, of course, there is the dirty feet element, with all sorts of grime and gunk attaching itself to your feet.
Nairobi women are special though; they favour flip-flops even in the June-July chill and in sloshy, rainy weather. It is a truly rare gift this.
Never mind that with flip-flops you will suffer far more extensive damage should you accidentally stub your toe.
This is not a call for the ban of flip-flops by any means. The main problem is that most people who wear flip-flops overwear them.
They are designed for the beach, soft surfaces (unlike the tarmacked, concrete jungle we live in), and to be worn for short periods of time.
Flip-flops have been around for centuries. Long before Americans imported the trend from the Japanese — who wore them with white socks, leading to a post World War II trend — the Egyptians were wearing them.
And they are not without their benefits. I had a colleague who wore nothing but strappy Maasai-beaded sandals to work because closed shoes had given her corns and bunions that were extremely painful.
She came up with the brilliant idea of flip-flop therapy and slowly, her feet gained normalcy. I met her after the damage had been repaired. She took excellent care of her feet.
They were pedicured, scrubbed, buffed, moisturised and adorned with toe rings. She worked her way to pretty feet and is now far more careful when it comes to closed shoes.
If you must wear flip-flops, opt for a good fit. That means you must be willing to spend more money. If it rubs between your first and second toes, it will cause blisters.
Check for arch support.
When you draw a circle around your foot, the tips of your toes and the edge of your heels should touch the circle.
The edges of the circle are the ends of your sandal. If your toes touch the ground, the sandals are too small and bad for your toes.
If you can fit two fingers parallel to your heel, it’s too large and will wear out your calf muscles and arch.
Always check for toe support. Buy cork soles rather than rubber. A good thong will cost more than the average Maasai Market sandal.
They might not look as exotic, but they offer what a good sandal should — arch support, cushioning, comfort for the toes, straps that are thicker than the spaghetti strings most sandals have and offer a degree of softness on your feet when you wear them.
Look for a sole that bends especially around the ball of your foot. This is the first place that cracks if your flip-flop is inflexible.
Get a slightly elevated heel, preferably a wedge rather than a stiletto. Wedges have better weight distribution at that height.
You know it is time to ditch your flip-flops if everyone can identify your flip-flops with the imprint of your foot and when the heel cracks.
Not everyone can wear flip-flops. If you have a low arch or flat feet, avoid flip-flops. Your feet need support.
Diabetics are advised not to wear flip-flops because any foot injury can easily become serious.
Overweight people should also avoid flip-flops. If you need to lose weight, your feet need more support than a flip-flop offers.
By now you know you must wear sunscreen. Apply it on your feet too.