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UL Lafayette Expert Weighs In On Flip Flop Debate

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Are you a flip-flop fashionista?

If so, you may find that wearing your favorite summer footwear can cause your legs to ache.

USA Today recently turned to a UL Lafayette expert, Dr. Justin Shroyer, for some advice.

“ The less flip in your flop, the better it is for your feet and legs,” Shroyer told USA Today. He recommends flip-flops with features such as heel cups and arches, to give feet as much support as possible.

Shroyer, an assistant professor of kinesiology, has studied the biomechanical performance and safety of the popular summer sandal. He’s evaluated more than 100 flip-flop wearers to find out how the shoes affect legs and feet. He recently presented some of his research at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting in Baltimore.

Shroyer’s research shows that people walk differently when wearing flip-flops than when they are barefoot. They take shorter steps and use their toes to grip the shoes as they walk. They also hold their ankles at a different angle. As a result, the muscles on the front of their shins work harder, causing leg pain.

He began exploring flip-flop effects in 2007, while earning his doctoral degree at Auburn University. When he presented the initial findings at the ACSM’s 2008 convention, he set off a media flip-flop frenzy. He received requests for interviews from Newsweek, the BBC and ABC’s Good Morning America, among others.

Two years later, media outlets are still calling. “I’ve become ‘The Flip-Flop Guy,’ not because I can’t make a decision, but because of my research,” he joked.

Stroyer’s research is focused on human movement. “Anywhere I go, I’m always analyzing the way people walk.”

Shroyer is collaborating with researchers at Auburn, studying the biomechanical effects of a new shoe, Vibrum FiveFingers®. The shoes have with rubber soles and separate compartments for each toe. The manufacturer says wearing the shoes is similar to going barefoot.

He had five people wear the shoes as much as possible for six months. “In developed countries, where people wear shoes almost from birth, there is a high prevalence of people with flat feet,” he explained.

“ We’re looking at the shoes’ effects on balance and stability – and measuring whether the arch structure in their feet improved.”

Stroyer said the data-collection phase of the study is complete. “We don’t know the answers yet, because we still have to crunch the numbers.”