Our podiatrist Brenden Brown was recently on the Today show discussing thongs! If you missed this segment press on the photo above and you can watch the video!
Quick points –
- Thongs make your foot muscles work harder
- To keep a thong on your foot you need to scrunch up your toes and pull them in tight. Often keeping the thong on your foot comes at the expense of other muscles as these seem to become sore form compensating.
- If you have a foot that requires extra support “Thongs” are problematic as they have no support, creating muscle soreness
- While we have always “known” or thought that we tend to trip and fall more easily in thongs there is a mounting body of evidence that this true.
The Humble thong
Australian’s have come to love the humble thong, it has almost become an institution in its own right. Characterising Australian life as much as Beer, our love of summer cricket and Barbeques. Despite our love of the humble thong this easy to wear piece of footwear somewhere in our heads we have come to realise, perhaps even sub consciously, it may not be as good for us as we would LOVE it to be!
Interestingly, despite our love of the thong and its acceptance as almost iconic Australian footwear it does not originate in Australia but from much further a field.
This style of footwear has been worn by the people of many cultures throughout the world, originating as early as the ancient Egyptians in 4,000 B.C. The modern Thong descends from the Japanese zōri, which became popular after World War II when soldiers returning to the United States brought them back.(*1) Its possibly here and our involvement in this conflict that brought the “thong” to Australia.
So why is it so bad?
Thongs are not the most evil thing in the world …….. That is day time television…. but there is mounting evidence that they maybe creating more harm than good. We see a lot of patients that come in on an almost daily basis in summer who have pain in their feet and legs which can be attributed to excessive wearing of thongs.
So what’s happening? The muscles in your feet are working very hard when you have a pair of thongs on. They do this for two main reasons 1. They are trying to keep the thong on your foot so they cramp up and claw onto the base of the thong. 2. Because in a thong your foot is not very stable. Your foot is moving about quite a bit, you may not that often your thong does not head in a straight direction rather slips from side to side on our foot. Again here is where your foot is moving about trying to simply stay stable much like it maybe while simply walking in bare feet.
Can it cause me long term damage?
There is a court case in Australia that was recently overturned when someone slipped in a shopping centre. At first the person who slipped won a case against the shopping centre but this was overturned when it was found that it may well have been the instability of the thong the person was wearing at the time that caused the fall!
People not only get sore muscles in their feet and legs but there seems to be at the very least anecdotally a mounting body of evidence that wearing a thong may lead to falls trips and other accidents. We also know on many occasions apart from simple things like excessive callous development on the heels of chronic thong devotees there are many people who find themselves with lower back pain, shin pain or heel pain from the malaised thong!
How can I make it better?
OK so I always fear talking, writing or even uttering poorly about the Aussie thong. At the time of writing this article I had just been on the Today show here in Australia giving my expert opinion on thongs. On the Today show Facebook page they placed a post about me appearing on the show saying it may not be good for you. At last count there are 831 people commenting, mostly bemoaning that I would dare criticise the thong. To put this in perspective on the same day Dan Aykroyd Hollywood legend was on the show, his article has attracted 53 ……… Australia I hear you!
- Wearing a thong is not a bad thing but it needs to be in moderation! Wearing a thong daily is not a good idea. Nor is wearing it on very long trips with loads of walking etc. So what makes thong wearing bearable?
- Wear a thong in moderation an hour a day at most if you are wearing them daily, Try to cut it down to wearing them on maybe weekends and around a pool.
- I have a rule that my patients can wear their thongs anywhere they are within 50 metres from a large body of water. This does NOT include back yard swimming pools.
- Try wearing sandals if you can as an alternative – still open footwear without all the “hard work” for your foot muscles!
- Moisturise your heels daily if your wear thongs for long periods it will soften those dry heels!
- Alternate with good supportive sneakers – give your muscles a break.
Please understand that while I am no fan of the Aussie (Japanese /Egyptian) Thong I am myself someone who wears them. I follow the rules above and as a result I rarely get foot pain. Thongs have a place in our wardrobe but it should be kept for beach wear and light recreation, where not a lot of walking is involved. There is a whole world of people including some of my academic colleagues who would almost go to any length to protect the humble Thong from attack on its image as iconic Australian footwear. However anecdotally no matter what double blind trial computer topography or emotional tirade you throw at me as a day to day practitioner I see an endless amount of punters with sore and damaged feet which are the direct result of a excessive Thong wearing. And please let’s not even start me on what a fashion faux pas (Fopar) they are !
* (from Wikipedia)