Does your back start to hurt while you work around house? Do your knees and feet ache when you stand up for a long time at the sink, stove or workbench?

There is a chance that all this suffering could be chalked up to a very dear old friend…your trusty slippers. Take this opportunity to put your feet up and look at them. How long have you been shuffling around in those worn out things?

Think about all of the thousands of steps you have paced around your house in the past few months or years since you have owned them.  That’s a lot of walking, and it all adds up. Just like the electric meter on your house keeps track of how much power you burn through, your musculoskeletal system keeps track of the amount of mileage that you put in. Every time you place one foot in front of the other, a shock wave (called ground reaction force, in case you care) runs up your leg, and is absorbed into the soft tissue of your knees and back.

Slippers are built to be fluffy and sloppy and comfortable, that is why we love them. But they are usually pretty light on support, their sides are soft and made out of floppy material that doesn’t do much to control the motion of your foot. An unsupported foot is likely to develop bad habits, striking the ground at bad angles which can magnify the amount of force that is sent up your leg with every step.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, look at the sole of your slipper (if it even has one). If you have had them for more than a few months, my guess is that you will be able to see a wear pattern. It may look like a place where the tread has disappeared; it might be that you have compressed the material enough to form a dip or a hollow where your heel hits. These are both bad, but the worst is if your slippers have developed a slant. Turn your slipper over and look at the bottom, sight down it and see if the sole has been worn down at an angle (especially on the heels).  If this is the case, throw them out.

I know it is sad to see a good pair of slippers go, but consider the consequences. Every step you take in worn out slippers has the potential to lead to soreness and injury.

Now it is time for some new “house shoes”. You are better off buying a pair of slip-on sneakers, crocs or clogs to wear around the house. Look for a shoe with arch support and a firm sole (but not too hard, because you want it to be comfortable).  Find a hidden spot on the shoes to write the date that you started wearing them, and check periodically to see if they are showing wear. Remember, if you are only wearing the shoes inside your house, they might not look old even when they are worn out.

Does this mean that all slippers are evil? Of course not.  Just like shoes, some are better than others. Even the fluffiest, most impractical slippers are fine to wear while lounging on the couch, getting up to use the bathroom in the night or going out to get the newspaper.  But try to find for a better option on days when you are going to be on your feet a lot at home.

Even when you are not in public, it is important to Walk Well.

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