Shoes full of sand; please advise
March 31, 2010 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Flipflops, how does one wear them?

Off on holiday next week, like to have my feet out, where appropriate. Birkenstocks or similar make me look and feel a bit simple but flipflops, trying them for the first time now, just shy of forty, seem to be a special kind of torture. But they look really cool. Is it me or are they excruciatingly painful for everyone? Does the skin between one's toes harden after a while? Are they fundamentally unsuitable for certain types of feet? Should I just recycle them and move on?
posted by tigrefacile to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (46 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Could be you grabbed the Wrong Flipflops. Some are toe torture for sure. The only ones I wear are the cheapies from Old Navy. For whatever reason they're comfy as can be.

Still wouldn't wear them for anything more demanding than a trip to the mailbox or whatever, though. They're loungewear.
posted by Neofelis at 12:52 PM on March 31, 2010

I've never heard of anybody having a problem wearing flip-flops. I don't always like to wear of them because of, well, the flipping and the flopping, but they've never been painful or difficult to me or anybody I've met.

Maybe you should try a new pair?
posted by aaronbeekay at 12:53 PM on March 31, 2010

I would try to find ones that have a more comfortable strap in between your toes before giving up entirely. My very first pair (around age 25 or so, I think before that I would wear tiva's or similar) were definitely torturous, but they had a hard plastic thing in between my toes, and I had to clench/unclench my toes to keep them on, and it was miserable. Then I got a pair that had cloth in between (from H&M, I believe and still crazy cheap, which is the best part of flipflops) and they were MUCH better. They stayed on my feet, better, too, which may have been due to the textured straw/bamboo bottoms. And now that I've worn a couple different pairs, I can wear those horrible plastic ones without much trouble, too. Good luck!
posted by Grither at 12:55 PM on March 31, 2010

You'll get blisters at first, but they'll go away after a while. If you want to speed up the process, buy a pair of nice ones like Rainbows that have canvas or other softish material between the toes instead of the cheap rubber/plastic common on the $5 drugstore ones.
posted by jckll at 12:55 PM on March 31, 2010

Supposedly Rainbow double layers are the way to go.

I don't wear flip flops but my boyfriend swears by these.
posted by np312 at 12:56 PM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I wear them from March to November, all the time, everywhere. Your feet totally adjust. I haven't had the between-the-toes issue in years; I'm assuming I have just built up a callous of sorts there. These days, I just get a blister under the strap at the top of my feet when I get a new pair. This is fixed with a bandaid that comes off two days later, problem solved.

Thinking about it, though, I do have fairly spaced out toes; maybe you have really tightly spaced toes and flipflops just won't be confortable for you?
posted by DarlingBri at 12:56 PM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, flip-flops definitely always hurt at first, whether you're 14 or forty. That tender area between the big toe and the second one has to build up a tolerance to this new intruder, the rubber divider thingy on the flip-flop. It doesn't take long to get used to it, though. My advice is to hang in there and tough it out.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:57 PM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

I used to absolutely abhor flip flops. I'd always get a little sore between my toes from wearing them. I found that sometimes, if the ones you're wearing are too big, your toes sort of clamp down to hold the flip flops in place, and that doesn't help matters. Well-constructed flip flops make a big difference, too. I can walk around in this crocs pair for hours at a time, but they're certainly not the most attractive thing I've ever seen.
posted by diamondsky at 12:57 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does the skin between one's toes harden after a while?

It must, because they are always torture the first few times I wear them each summer, and then they get comfortable.
posted by amro at 12:57 PM on March 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

I hadn't worn flip flops for years when I bought a pair in college. They hurt like blazes for the first few days. Some of it was getting my toes used to them, some of it was breaking in the shoes, and some of it was getting comfortable with how much I actually needed to grip the shoes with my toes (ie, initial overgripping caused muscle cramps). After a few days, I did eventually get used to them.

I only wear the ones where the between-the-toes part is fabric though; I've never gotten used to the plastic ones. A friend gave me a pair of plastic flip flops from Old Navy and after I tried to wear them on the way to the laundry room, they went right in the trash.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 12:57 PM on March 31, 2010

i can't wear flip-flops. the skin between my toes is apparently very, very tender. most flip-flops can reduce me to tears inside of 15 minutes. i have found one singular pair of flip-flops that this isn't true for (old navy, canvas strap with grommets, purchased 10 years ago). every other pair are just torture.

so, before you write them off entirely, try a few different pairs. stay away from any with a plastic strap, or a plastic tube around the part that goes between your toes. tried cloth or canvas, maybe leather...
posted by nadawi at 12:58 PM on March 31, 2010

I've always heard that flip flops can cause painful problems with your feet. Maybe you should try sandals instead?
posted by JaredSeth at 12:58 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

All thong type sandals are painful for me -- flip flops or otherwise. Some of us just have feet that are the wrong shape.
posted by mmf at 12:59 PM on March 31, 2010

I love wearing flip flops but some work for me and others don't. The nice thing is that they're not expensive so if you buy a pair and find that they hurt too much, you can toss them without too much guilt. I usually have two pairs at a time because I've found that if you wear the same pair day after day, they can get gross pretty quickly. My current rotation includes Havaianas, Tevas, and Birkenstocks.
posted by kat518 at 12:59 PM on March 31, 2010

Wearing flip flops (or mules, or any other backless shoe) can lead to plantar fasciitis, so if they're already causing you pain, it's probably best to ditch them and pick up a nice pair of sandals instead. Plantar fasciitis is ridiculously painful, and the last thing you want on holiday is debilitating foot pain.
posted by hot soup girl at 1:01 PM on March 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've never gotten the hang of flip-flops...and we had them back when I was a kid. Uncomfortable pieces of rubber crap. Bad for your feet and back, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:02 PM on March 31, 2010

I find that the lighter the sole is, the better. If it's very thick, heavy rubber, it seems to put more of a strain on my toe cleavage, whereas very light soled flip flops are ridiculously comfortable.
posted by tryniti at 1:02 PM on March 31, 2010

I agree with only ever getting the ones that have fabric between the toes, but there will still be a range of comfort levels. For me, the secret was switching to Reefs, (official link, amazon) which are comfy from the get-go. Don't give up though - it may take trying lots of brands to find ones that work for you.
posted by violetish at 1:03 PM on March 31, 2010

jamaro: "The flipflop should rattle about when you shake your foot sideways."

I found the opposite to be true, when I went one size down from my previous flipflop purchase, they stayed on my feet much better without having to grip with my toes at all, and were much more comfortable because of that. Also, I would never pay more than $10 for a pair of flipflops. ($40-60!? That's crazy-sauce) The point is to use/abuse them, and throw them out when they get nasty/dirty. I suppose if those $40-$60 pairs were machine washable and had lifetime guarantees, they might be worth the cost, though...
posted by Grither at 1:05 PM on March 31, 2010

nth-ing try a different pair. Some have really pliable rubber/leather/nylon straps, others start stiff and need some breaking in, still others are just never comfy. And some people can be presented with the World's Comfiest Pair, only to find that they can't stand the feeling of something between their toes, full stop.

I *have* found that the skin between my toes is a little tender at the beginning of spring, since I don't wear flip flops at all during the winter, but that goes away very quickly.

That said, you might look at Teva -- they have a lot more than just their typical nylon-strap sandal now, including extremely comfy, cushy flip flops, and some non flip-flop sandals made of leather that can be dressed up or down, can get wet, etc. Great for travel.

On preview, what everyone else already said.
posted by somanyamys at 1:05 PM on March 31, 2010

Lots of people love Rainbows.

How far are you traveling in your flip flops?

May I suggest Chacos?
posted by craven_morhead at 1:07 PM on March 31, 2010

I recommend giving Birkenstocks another go, specifically these ones. They look like flip flops and wear like shoes that support your feet properly. It's a win-win. I've had a pair of the women's for about three years now and love them SO, SO much. They don't look like regular sandal-y Birks and don't hurt your toes.

I am another of those people who cannot wear normal plastic flip-flops because of the toe tearing and have found that it just never really goes away, unless it's fabric (leather and canvas are fine).
posted by urbanlenny at 1:10 PM on March 31, 2010

I asked this same question at MetaChat a few years ago: I just bought my first pair of thong sandals. Does anyone have advice on how best to accustom myself to the leather thong that’s violating the tender crevice between my toes?

Mine were leather thong sandals, not flipflops, but still: taz's answer was dead right: wear them briefly and close to home to get used to them don't let the tender flesh between your toes get abraded or blistered (switch shoes before it starts, not after), and, if you're like me, quite quickly you'll become accustomed to the thong and it will stop irritating you.
posted by Elsa at 1:11 PM on March 31, 2010

Simple Cushee flipflops.

I buy a pair every spring and they last me all summer. No chafing, as the straps are a soft hemp fabric. At least, they've never bothered me. They have a nice thick and (as the name implies) cushy sole. I used to buy a couple pairs of Old Navy flipflops every summer, and they would start to wear through in the heel almost immediately and have almost no support.
posted by Windigo at 1:12 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have ridiculously narrow and stupidly flat feet, so it took some training and luck to be able to wear flip flips for any length of time. Get a pair of flip flops where the thong is made of fabric, not plastic. I love my Rainbows, but they can make weird squishy noises sometimes and I'm really sensitive to that, so instead I swear by my Dr. Scholl's pair. It took about 3 years of searching, though, to find a pair that didn't hurt, and a few weeks of wearing them in before I figured out how to walk in them.
posted by lilac girl at 1:12 PM on March 31, 2010

Does the skin between one's toes harden after a while?

Yes. Hang in there.

Are they fundamentally unsuitable for certain types of feet?

Yes, if you have arch problems! In that case, try Birks. I wear only Birks at all times of year for this reason. Sometimes I'll put my Spenco pads in regular shoes.

I'm not sure what you mean by feeling "simple," but try the Birk Gizeh style.
posted by jgirl at 1:21 PM on March 31, 2010

I would like to suggest that your premise here is flawed. Flip flops do not look cool on anybody. Flip flops on grown ups, as a style choice, look like this. They're fine and have their uses (beach, pool, gym shower), but no one should be pretending they are real shoes. They are much, much worse than Birkenstocks when it comes to style/aesthetic points (which you do seem to care about).

What's wrong with a nice sandal instead?
posted by peachfuzz at 1:25 PM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So it looks like a certain amount of persistence is involved. The ones I'm trying at the moment are cushee-type with a cotton thong. I was wondering about vaseline or something, but I suspect that will harden the thong in the long run and be generally icky. Good to know that even hardened wearers struggle at the beginning of the summer.
posted by tigrefacile at 1:26 PM on March 31, 2010

Rainbows take a while to break in. I go for Locals, which are plastic and not terribly stylish but break in within a few days. They're also hella cheap. I go through 2 or 3 pairs in a summer.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:27 PM on March 31, 2010

FWIW, my mother has hiked through woods, up mountains (Alps, seriously) and along cliffs on dirt trails for over 10 miles at a time in her crummy, $3-from-the-grocery-store flipflops -- for at least my entire life (I'm in my 30s) -- and she swears they are the most comfortable shoes in the world. In the summer, I never see her in anything else unless she is at work or at a VERY formal party.

You can imagine that she tried to convert her children to this delightful experience, but despite my best efforts I have ended up in writhing pain every time I try to go the flipflop route -- for 20+ years, now. So I would advise making peace with the idea that for some people, perhaps including you, flipflops are just never going to be the answer.
posted by obliquicity at 1:28 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I get the between-the-toe blisters every spring when I break out the flip flops. They go away after about a few days to a week.

I know it's unhip to like Crocs, but I really like their flip flops. They have more support, cushion, and traction than the thin slabs of rubber you find at Old Navy, but they're still lightweight. I've had luck finding good knockoff versions for about $7 at drugstores.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:29 PM on March 31, 2010

I didn't see it mentioned, but I have a hard time finding flip flops because it seems my feet are thicker (?) than most, and the post between the toes is just not long enough. I mean, I can't even get them onto my feet sometimes. Occasionally i find a pair that's deeper than the rest and they feel ok.

So, this is just advice to keep trying pairs until you find one that you like. And some people just can't handle them in any case.
posted by cabingirl at 1:35 PM on March 31, 2010

For several years in high school, I lived in tatatami sandals. The straps were generally made of velveteen, which was very nice between the toes.
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:36 PM on March 31, 2010

I wear basic Reef flip-flops for four months every year and never get the least pain or redness.
posted by nicwolff at 1:38 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Random sidenote...if you wear Old Navy flipflops and are walking on wet road/sidewalk, beware hydroplaning flat onto your butt.
posted by Windigo at 1:46 PM on March 31, 2010

The correct answer is to wear socks with your flip-flops. Preferably of the white and cotton variety. The soft cotton makes the the thong between the toes feel wonderful.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 1:51 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

These are supposed to be comfortable. (Name and logo, not so much)
posted by Carbolic at 1:52 PM on March 31, 2010

I can't wear regular flip flops, due to the pain, but I can wear the ones that have a thong over the big toe. those have never caused me any problems. Maybe because the pressure is more evenly distributed.
posted by Vaike at 2:00 PM on March 31, 2010

posted by craven_morhead at 2:01 PM on March 31, 2010 [7 favorites]

I wear flip flops all the time. Not all flip flops are created equal. I found as in many things in life, there's an inverse relationship between the price and comfort of the flip flop (although there's really expensive cruel shoes out there). I'm currently wearing a pair of Tevas that look like rebadged Reef flip flops that nicwolff linked to. I also have a pair of Adidas that forego the toe section entirely.

Flip flops are not ideal if you're going to be walking a lot. And if you need to run/jog to get across the street because the light is changing it will hurt. I'll wear comfortable walking shoes to the beach, then switch to flip flops for walking around on the beach (when I'm not barefoot).

As a newer user, you may also be subconsciously squeezing your toes together out of fear they'll fall off. You may also just be sitting around the house or wherever you are with between your toes. I'll usually "park" my feet on the flip flop but not in toe when I'm just sitting around. I only put my toes in the holster when I'm actually walking.
posted by birdherder at 2:11 PM on March 31, 2010

I can't wear flip-flops. Ones I got free with an order from Delia's were slightly less noxious, which is to say I could walk from my apartment to the pool while wearing them. I wouldn't go any longer distances, though.

My feet blister like hell and DON'T get calluses despite years of ballet, so 95% of shoes don't work for me anyway. But flip-flops, hell no.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:21 PM on March 31, 2010

If you do a lot of walking get some high-quality flip-flops (that sounds like an oxy-moron) with a good bed for your feet. But casual days, with just an errand or two, man there is nothing like tossing on some five-buck flip-flops and strolling around with the pop-pop-pop of the soles hitting your feet. The first summer I wore them, they felt odd for the first week, but now they feel so good every time I put them on. If I'm wearing flip-flops, the world seems like a better, sunnier place.
posted by missmary6 at 2:23 PM on March 31, 2010

Note that some flip-flops just feel horrible. Like with any shoe, design matters. Old Navy used to make amazing awesome cheap flip-flops but changed their design a few years ago, and now they cut into my feet. They must work for some people, though, they keep selling them.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:36 PM on March 31, 2010

i only read the first few posts, but if your flipflops hurt your feet, you bought shitty flipflops.

i have a pair of $40 Reefs that are the second best thing i've worn on my foot. the best thing was the $80 pair of leather Reefs.
posted by phritosan at 4:41 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

as someone said above, why not wear a nice pair of sandals? there are some great birks out there. even though everyone in the known universe seems to wear flip-flops to work or whatever, they provide no arch support, and there's not much between you and the possibly gross walking surface. as a casual beach/around-the-house shoe, they're fine, but not for more than that (in my opinion, which clearly many don't share).
posted by sdn at 6:45 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I generally don't wear flip flops as an everyday shoe. They're just for lounging about the house or going to the pool. Have you looked into other types of sandals? I'm looking into this style because they have the look of a thong sandal, but also an ankle strap, which prevents all the flipping and flopping that causes the shoes to rub up against the toes.
posted by lexicakes at 9:21 PM on March 31, 2010

« Older Where should we go for dinner in Austin, TX?   |   Largest slums in the Americas? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.