Tuesday, June 12, 2007
It's the pain so what's the gain FitFlops?
Fit Flops are tipped to be this season’s fashion trend and according to media reports FitFlops are selling out quickly, everywhere. This of course may be due to there being only a limited supply of sandals available for sale. In which case that is clever marketing which instantly creates an artifical demand. According to the manufacturer wearing the shoes tone the leg muscles by virtue of their negative heel design caused through destabilisation of the foot and as an adjunct the inclusion of polymer materials within the soling, dampens down peak shock (presumably at heel strike and through propulsion). There are many studies which would uphold the later claim but few independent investigations to suggest destabilising feet (as is suggested in the sales literature) would benefit muscle tone. Like the manufacturer’s claims for Dr Scholls Exercise Sandals in the late 60s and 70s, I remain unsure whether the structure and presentation of the shoe as a medium, exercised the intrinsic muscles of the foot, or alternatively people wearing the sandals, were more confident and comfortable enough, to walk more. One phenomenon which was peculiar to many DR. Scholl Exercise Sandal wearers was inevitable they experienced difficult in getting used to wearing their sandals. But once they had worn them for a couple of times they considered their exercise sandals to be the most comfortable shoes of their wardrobe. The orthodox heeled shoe as we understand it has its origins in the early 1950s when it was discovered a well placed shank could give greater freedom to the position and size of the shoe heel. The Stiletto was not just an icon but heralded the end of the era for negative heels. Prior to this design innovation and mass production of heeled shoes in the 19th century, heels were positioned more closely to the foot arch and acted as an arch support. By implication maintaining a high arch during ground contact and propulsion helps foot function (aka improves intrinsic muscle control of the foot) but increases peak shock due to the stiffness of the foot which if prolonged would have a potential to cause damage to weight bearing joints. In the 20th century fads and fashions for shoes with negative heels have enjoyed short spells of popularity before becoming passé. Dr School Exercise sandals received such negative publicity the company inevitably relaunched their sandals under a new name. Thank you to the many surfers who have contacted me regarding FitFlops. My advice as with any shoe is the make sure the shoe fits the foot comfortably before purchase. Be prepared to put up with some initial inconvenience with the shoes, but if the discomfort continues beyond what would be a reasonable breaking I period, change you footwear. Keep the container and store the shoes for fifty years because they will become collectors artefacts. A win win situation.