Why Flip-Flops Aren’t Suited for Children’s Feet

Photo: (Photo : MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)

A pair of flip-flops or thong sandals might look comfortable and in season for lounging in the backyard, at the campsite, or in the pool, but this type of footwear is not suitable for children, especially if they still have developing feet, according to the experts.

Mom Lauren Mejia's footwear tip on the social media platform, TikTok, has been gathering over 15,000 views, where she told her followers to ditch the flip-flops or those sandals with flat soles if they have little kids. Instead, the mother said that she prefers to let her kids wear closed-toe shoes with a no-slip grip when they go to the pool.

While Mejia didn't explain her choice, Santa Monica pediatrician Daniel Ganjian said that the mother's tip makes sense because children enjoy a lot of running and jumping in the park or at the pool. He noted that soles with no-slip grip are some of the safest footwear for active kids.

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Flip-Flops Trigger Health Issues

Because flip-flops have flat soles, this footwear cannot provide arch support for a child's developing feet. According to the National Library of Medicine, arches on children's feet will rapidly develop by the time they are five years old, and a well-developed arch is important for balance and strength. An underdeveloped arch may experience more pain and discomfort after a few hours of walking or standing.

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There are not a lot of brands that offer flip-flops with an arched design for tiny feet. Sometimes, if the parents find an ideal design, they buy bigger sizes to give the feet room to grow into the footwear. However, doing so may only increase the chances of injuries as the child's feet are in the wrong spots. Every person's foot is unique, and every flip-flop has its unique "wear" patterns. These wear patterns support the foot on the right spot, which is why people would often feel quite off when they're wearing someone else's flip-flops.

Compared to closed-toe shoes, a pair of thong sandals forces the child to use the toes to toggle and grip with every step. This repeated action may lead to the tendons becoming flexed with a permanent downward point. Experts call this deformity "hammertoe" and may contribute to difficulty in walking and some pain or discomfort. In some cases, a child may develop corns or calluses and frequently complain of foot cramps.

Ideally, flip-flops are never great for wearing for a longer period because the child will get used to the loose fit and will not be comfortable with sneakers and closed-toe shoes.

Best Footwear for Kids

The best footwear for children should balance the basics: support, comfort, and ease of use. According to Dr. Shawn Duench, if a child insists on wearing flip-flops since it's easy to slip on and off, parents should never go for the bargain brands. Pick a pair with "supportive footbeds, adjustable straps, thicker soles and deep heel cups."

Before buying, try to gently twist the footwear. If the flip-flop has a solid design with a sturdy sole, it should not bend or give with a soft twist. Parents must also remind their children not to run in flip-flops because this footwear does not provide stability.

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