Flip-flops

flip flop flap

Flip-flops (also called thongs, jandals, pluggers, go-aheads, slaps, slides, step-ins, chankla or a variety of other names throughout the world) are a type of open-toed sandal typically worn in casual situations. They consist of a flat sole held loosely on the foot by a Y-shaped strap that passes between the first and second toes and around either side of the foot. They may also be held to the foot with a single strap over the top of the foot rather than a thong. The name is an onomatopoeia for the sound that is made when the sole slaps the ground while walking in flip-flops.

This style of footwear has been worn by the people of many cultures throughout the world, originating as early as the ancient Egyptians. The modern flip-flop descends from the Japanese zōri, which were popularized in the US after WWII by soldiers returning from the Pacific theater. They are common summer footwear for both genders, and some varieties have even found their way into more formal attire, despite criticism.

Flip-flops were commonly worn in Nigeria at least since the early sixties, and it is perhaps from Britons and Americans returning from there that the term spread. They could be bought by tracing round the edge of a foot on paper, and then the template would accompany a servant to the market, where he would barter for flip-flops. They are called ‘thongs’ in Australia, ‘jandals’ (short for ‘Japanese sandals’) in New Zealand, ‘slops’ in South Africa, and ‘tsinelas’ in Philippines. In India and Pakistan, they are commonly known as ‘hawai chappal’ (‘air sandal’).

Ancient Egyptian sandals were made from papyrus and palm leaves. The Masai of Africa made them out of rawhide. In India, they were made from wood. In China and Japan, rice straw was used. The leaves of the sisal plant were used to make twine for sandals in South America, while the natives of Mexico used the yucca plant. Ancient Greek sandals had the toe strap between the first and second toes, while Roman sandals had the strap between the second and third toes. These differ from the sandals worn by the Mesopotamians, with the strap between the third and fourth toes. In India, a related ‘chappal’ (‘toe knob’) sandal was common, with no straps but a small knob sitting between the first and second toes. They are known as Padukas.

In 1962, Alpargatas marketed a version of flip-flops known as Havaianas in Brazil. By 2010, more than 150 million pairs of Havaianas were produced each year. Flip-flops quickly became popular as casual footwear of young men and women from their teens to college. Girls would often decorate their flip-flops with metallic finishes, charms, chains, beads, rhinestones, or other jewelry. High-end flip-flops made of leather or sophisticated synthetic materials are commonly worn in place of sneakers or loafers as the standard, everyday article of casual footwear, particularly among teenagers and young adults, although it is not unusual to see even older people wearing playful, thick-soled flip-flops in brilliant colors.

A minor controversy erupted in 2005 when some members of Northwestern University’s national champion women’s lacrosse team visited the White House wearing flip-flops. The team responded to critics by auctioning off their flip-flops on eBay, raising $1,653 for young cancer patient, Jaclyn Murphy of Hopewell Junction, New York, who was befriended by the team. There is still a debate over whether this signaled a fundamental change in American culture — many youth feel that flip-flops are more dressy and can be worn in a variety of social contexts, while older generations feel that wearing them at formal occasions signifies laziness and comfort over style.

In 2011, while vacationing in his native Hawaii, Barack Obama became the first President of the United States to be photographed wearing a pair of flip-flops. The Dalai Lama of Tibet is also a frequent wearer of flip-flops and has met with several US presidents, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, while wearing the sandals. Sales of flip-flops exceeded those of sneakers for the first time in 2006. Due to the strap between the toes, flip-flops are typically not worn with socks. Though, in colder weather, some people may wear flip-flops with toe socks. The Japanese commonly wear ‘tabi’ with their zōri, which is a traditional sock with a single slot for the thong.

While flip-flops provide the wearer with some protection from hazards on the ground, such as hot sand at the beach, glass, thumb tacks or even fungi and wart-causing viruses in locker rooms or community pools, their simple design is responsible for a host of other injuries of the foot and lower leg. Walking for long periods in flip-flops can be very tough on the feet, resulting in pain in the ankles, legs, and feet. A 2009 study at Auburn University found that flip-flop wearers took shorter steps and their heels hit the ground with less vertical force than those wearing athletic shoes. Individuals with flat feet or other foot issues are advised to wear a shoe with better support. The lack of support provided by thong sandals is a major cause of injuries. Since they have a spongy sole, the foot rolls further inward than normal when it hits the ground — an action called over-pronation, which can cause many foot problems including flat fleet. Flip-flops can also cause a person to overuse the tendons in their feet, resulting in tendonitis. The lack of an ankle strap that holds the foot in place is also a common reason for this injury, as this causes wearers to scrunch their toes in an effort to keep the flip-flop in place.

Ankle sprains or broken bones are also common injuries, due to stepping off a curb or tumbling — the ankle bends, but the flip-flop neither holds on to nor supports it. Additionally, the straps of the flip-flop may cause frictional issues, such as rubbing, during walking, and the open-toed nature of the thongs may result in cuts, scrapes, bruises, or stubbed toes. Despite all of these issues, flip-flops do not have to be avoided completely. Many podiatrists recommend avoiding the inexpensive, drug store varieties and spending more on sandals with thick-cushioned soles, as well as ones that have a strap that’s not canvas and that comes back almost to the ankle.

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