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Knee pain? Try wearing flip-flops, study suggests

March 24, 2010 | 11:11 am

Flipflop Poor flip-flops. Popular though they are, they've been targets for criticisms of many types -- for their lack of arch support, for their potential tripping hazard, for their inability to protect foot skin from the sun and thus their theoretical elevation of foot-skin cancer risk (seriously). And who was to say the criticism was wrong? The shoes are cheap -- they have to be bad, right?

Not so.

Researchers at Rush University in Chicago analyzed the gaits of 31 people with osteoarthritis of the knee while the participants were walking barefoot and while they were wearing clogs, stability shoes, flat walking shoes and the much maligned (and generally inexpensive) flip-flops.

If the goal is to not increase pressure on the knee -- and people with knee osteoarthritis would wholeheartedly say that it is -- then walking barefoot, wearing flat walking shoes or simply slipping on thongs would appear to be the best choice. The same could not be said for clogs and stability shoes.

The researchers note that sole flexibility, like heel height, would seem to be important when choosing footwear.

Now if someone could only do something about that annoying flapping sound.

Here's the abstract as it appears in the journal Arthritis Care & Research and the release as it appears on ScienceBlog -- plus an earlier abstract from a similar study (also out of Rush). It found that a specialized shoe known as a mobility shoe tended to be kinder to the knees than a typical "walking" shoe.

And here's more about knee osteoarthritis from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

— Tami Dennis

Photo: Fun and not-so-bad for you. Credit: Goh Seng Chong / Bloomberg