There are a variety of footwear options that you can wear during the summer, but one of the most popular types you are bound to come across are flip flops. They are one of the most basic items you will find in most people’s closet, but they have a long history and unique design that distinguishes them from other types of footwear. Read on for an in-depth look at the history of flip flops and their design.
What are flip flops? Flip flops are a variety of sandals that are typically reserved for wear in casual settings. Their design comprises of a flat sole that is kept in place loosely on the foot by a Y-shaped strap that is sometimes referred to as a thong.
This strap goes between the big toe and the second toe and around either side of the foot. Flip flops are made from a variety of flip flops, with the most common being leather, rubber, foam, suede, plastic, and fabric, to mention a few. Due to the strap design of the flip flop, they are typically not worn with socks, although it is not unheard of to wear them with toe socks in cold weather. Flip flops generally have a lightweight design, making them easy to walk in. They are also very breathable thanks to their open design, which is why they are such a popular footwear choice during the summer. However, most flip flops don’t offer much support due to their simplistic design, which can lead to a variety of health issues. Due to their barely-there design, flip flops leave your feet exposed and susceptible to injury.
Although flip flops are one of the most prevalent types of footwear, there are often discrepancies when it comes to their history and even their design in some cases. Although most people wear them and benefit from them, not too many are aware of their potential downsides as well. Here is a look at the various aspects of flip flops.
A brief history of the flip flop
Flip flops have been in existence for thousands of years, dating back to Ancient Egypt around 4000 BC. The oldest known surviving flip flop can be found on display at the British Museum and is believed to date from 1500 BC. Materials used in the construction of flip flops varied from one region to another – Ancient Egyptians used papyrus and palm, the Masai of Africa used rawhide, rice straw was prevalent in China and Japan, and Ancient Indian flip flops were made from wood.
The modern flip flop began to gain traction in the United States after soldiers that were returning from World War II brought with them the Japanese zori. As they became more prevalent in America, modifications were made to the design, with bright colors and patterns flooding the market. In the 1960s, flip flops became synonymous with the casual beach lifestyle in California.
Havaianas was created in 1962 in the Brazilian footwear company Alpargatas. It is currently one of the most popular flip flop brand in the world, with over 150 million pairs being produced yearly. Taking styling influences from the Japanese zori, more people adopted the rubber flip flop, and they even managed to eclipse trainers in popularity during this period.
Design of a flip flop
Flip flops comprise of a y-shaped strap that is attached to its base. When you wear a flip flop, the strap goes between the first and second toe, as well as around both sides of the foot. It is meant to keep the flip flop in place when it is worn, as it is the part of the flip flop that your foot holds onto. Depending on the flip flop, the straps can be loosely attached or more secure on your foot. A strap that is shoved through the base will likely be less durable as compared to a strap that is sewn in.
The footbed of a flip flop will typically vary depending on the design. However, when shopping for flip flops, you will want to go for a variety that features a molded or contoured footbed to keep your feet comfortable when you wear them. This way, you won’t experience fatigue and aches in your feet or back when you walk in flip flops for extended periods.
Without adequate support, it won’t matter how soft the footbed of the flip flop is – you will be subjected to pain after a few hours of walking in them. Therefore, you want to look for flip flop footbeds that will fit your arch and support it as well as be cushy and soft to walk on at the same time.
The modern flip flop is made from a variety of materials. Some of the most common include:
- Leather – Leather is one of the most common materials used in the construction of flip flops. This is because it is comfortable, durable, and breathable. Leather is known for its ability to stretch, so as you continue to wear your leather flip flops, they will change shape and consequently mold to your feet over time. However, leather flip flops can be easily damaged by water as they are not naturally water-resistant. To protect them, you will have to treat your flip flops using a suitable leather protectant.
- Suede – Suede is a type of leather that is known for its luxurious finish. Suede flip flops are comfortable and sturdy, but they are very delicate and need extra care especially when it comes to cleaning them. They can be easily damaged when exposed to wet conditions, so it is important to apply a suede protectant to keep them in top condition.
- Rubber – Rubber is perhaps the most common material used in the construction of flip flops. This could be attributed to the fact that they are durable as well as water-resistant, making rubber flip flops great for use at the beach or by the pool. When choosing rubber flip flops, opt to go varieties that are made from gum rubber as they are supple and waterproof. Molded polyurethane is also a great choice, but you will want to avoid cheap standard polyurethane that tends to fall apart quite easily. The main downside of wearing rubber flip flops is that they can cause chafing and blisters after extended periods of wear.
- Cork – In addition to having moisture-wicking and antimicrobial properties, cork flip flops are also great shock-absorbers. They also mold to your foot when you break them in, making them quite comfortable to walk in.
- Fabric – Fabric flip flops comprise of a combination of synthetic fibers (such as polyester) and natural fibers (such as cotton). They are flat-woven to encourage stretching as well as allow for durability.
Pros of wearing flip flops
Here are some of the reasons why flip flops are so popular:
- Lightweight – When compared to regular shoes, flip flops are very lightweight, which can be attributed to their minimalistic design. They don’t weigh down the foot and force you to put extra effort into lifting your legs as you walk. This makes them suitable for both outdoor and indoor wear.
- Breathable – As previously mentioned, a flip flop is made up of a Y-shaped strap and a base. This means that your foot can breathe even on the hottest of days when in a flip flop, consequently reducing the risk of overheating and sweating.
- Easy to slip in and out of – Flip flops are easy to wear and take off – all you have to do is insert or remove your feet from the under the straps. You don’t have to worry about fumbling with straps or strapping a buckle with flip flops
Cons pf wearing flip flops
There are several downsides to wearing flip flops:
- Most of them offer little support – The average flip flop design does not provide adequate support to your feet. If you wear your flip flops casually, they shouldn’t cause any major damage. However, if you wear them for extended periods daily, you will likely start experiencing pains in your foot as well as other parts of the body. Flip flops have been linked to a variety of painful conditions such as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, Achilles tendinitis, back and knee pain, and bunions, among others.
- They overexpose your feet – The open design of flip flops may allow for breathability, but this means that your feet are always exposed. As a result, they are vulnerable to any sharp objects that you may come in contact with, which could lead to potentially serious injuries. Your feet are also exposed to harmful UV rays for the sun especially if you forget to apply sunscreen. The feet are also vulnerable to a variety of viruses and bacteria that may be lurking on the surfaces where you are walking, which could cause infections.
- They tend to slow you down – When you walk in flip flops, you are forced to adjust your strides by shortening them to become more stable. This makes your steps halted, which significantly increases the risk of tripping and potentially falling as you walk.
Flip flops are one of the most unique and recognizable types of footwear thanks to their distinctive Y-shaped strap combined with a base design. They have a long and rich history that goes back to Ancient Egypt, and they are even more popular today in the modern world. However, despite their popularity and usefulness, there are several health implications and injuries associated with wearing flip flops, so you will want to stick to wearing them casually.