Several weeks ago I was e-mailed by an online sports and outdoor footwear retailer and asked for my opinion on Fit Flops, possibly to be shown on their website. They asked me for my honest opinion “whatever that may be”. Now I have no personal vendetta against Fit Flops and am fully aware that (anecdotally at least) many many individuals find them very comfortable. However I was pretty certain that a footwear company would not publish what I wrote about Fit Flops; given that they had a vested interest in selling them and I was certainly not going to validate the unsubstantiated claims that they boast:
I was quite suprised to see this week that the article had actually been published on the companies website blog. However, perhaps I was less suprised to see that I had been ‘edited’. I have pasted below the original manuscript exactly as I sent it to them:
Fit Flops – my thoughts by Ian B Griffiths, Sports Podiatrist.
The fit flop is one of the latest types of footwear to hit the stores backed up by significant marketing by the shoe company which produced it. But what does it promise and can it deliver? Surely it must be true or the media wouldn’t get hold of it and further promote the marketing claims… right?
Firstly let’s look at some of the alleged benefits of wearing Fit Flops:
(1) Destabilisation of the feet to create continuous leg muscle tension
(2) Increased leg, calf and gluteal muscle activity
(3) Improved posture
(4) Barefoot walking gait mimicked
(5) Improved muscle tone
Now I cannot prove that Fit Flops do not do any of the above. But I do not have to as that is not the way that the scientific method works. It is the duty of the company making these claims to prove them to be true – not anyone else to prove them untrue. By proof of course we mean well designed scientific studies (the gold standard being randomised controlled trials) which are then published in peer reviewed scientific academic journals. So do Fit Flops have numerous studies backing up each of the above claims? No. They do not.
Their ‘research’ (as far as I can make out from their website) consists of studies carried out within a 3 month period at Salford and South Bank Universities. There are no published studies that I can find regarding the Fit Flops. This ‘research’ was of course carried out by the two individuals who developed the Fit Flop. Am I suggesting their results are false and they are biased? No, but I am saying we all need access to these results and the statistical tests which were applied so we can critically analyse the conclusions drawn and decide for ourselves. General words of advice – do not believe anything a shoe company tells you about their shoes unless it has been confirmed by an independent scientific study.
One study which has gone through the above peer review process is a paper published in 20081 which showed that normal flip flops actually increase the pressures under the heel and the ball of the foot when compared to athletic shoes, and therefore increase the risk of foot deformities. Now whilst this was not a fit flop, you cannot disagree that the fit flop bears more resemblance to a flip flop than an athletic shoe. Just some food for thought.
So why would a shoe company promise us all these things if they weren’t true? The cynical amongst us may assume it was to sell lots of them and make money. Given the busy lifestyles people have nowadays, coupled with the human instinct to get quick results if at all possible you can see what a potentially lucrative idea a shoe such as the fit flop is. Assuming you wanted to improve your fitness and get more toned buns which of the two below options sound more attractive (be honest):
Option A: A calorie controlled diet, cycling to work everyday, and visiting the gym 2-3 times a week to do a full lower limb resistance workout including straight leg hip extensions.
Option B: Just buy an expensive pair of shoes and ‘exercise while you walk!’
Having said all this there are certain circumstances in which this type of footwear may be beneficial (in my opinion). Individuals who have arthritic changes or restrictions at the ankle joint or the big toe joint may well benefit positively from a shoe which allows the body to pass over the foot in a more fluid manner (a bit like a rocker bottom sole) as less joint movement is generally thought to be required. They may also provide some relief for individuals with plantar fascia or heel pain – as any shoe with a raised heel has been shown to reduce the tensile loads in the plantar fascia. The EVA construction will also afford the wearer more shock absorption which is certainly preferable to walking barefoot around the house, particularly on hard wooden floors first thing in the morning (first step pain being quite common in some presentations of heel pain).
To conclude, the human body has vast variability. With regards to Fit flops some will love them, and some will hate them. For some they may well be beneficial, and some they may well be detrimental. What shouldn’t be done is a blanket approach to their marketing which seems to encompass all (and which also states facts which are unproven thus far). I do not want anyone to think I am just getting at Fit Flops – all of the above could just as easily be applied to the MBT or the Shape Up from Sketchers. These are my personal (and professional) opinions and I have no financial interest in any products.
1 Carl, T. J., & Barrett, S. L. (2008). Computerised Analysis of Plantar Pressure Variation in Flip-Flops, Athletic Shoes, and Bare Feet. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association. 98(5), 374-378.
Now you have seen this as I sent it to them originally – take a little look at it as it was published here: http://blog.fitnessfootwear.com/fitflops-by-ian-griffiths-sports-podiatrist/ See if you can see the changes they made (and decide for yourself why they made them). A bonus point for those who spot the not so subtle ‘completely putting words into my mouth’ trick. EDIT: I did actually post a comment on the Fitness Footwear blog in response to the article ‘I wrote’ for them at the above link. I merely supplied a link back to this blog entry here, and invited readers to see the original article as I intended it to be read. You won’t see this comment on their site however, as after 4 days of it awaiting moderation it then disappeared.
What can be learnt from this? Well if you aspire to write articles for websites, newspapers or magazines then what you send them will most likely not be what you eventually read in print. And the worst bit about this apparent ‘editorial/artistic license’ is that it will still have your name attached to it and everyone will think you wrote it.
If you are a consumer reading reviews on websites and in magazines then treat them with a healthy dose of cynicism, as what you read is not necessarily the most factually correct information (dare I say it is sales patter or financially motivated marketing hype?). In a nutshell do not believe everything you read. I certainly don’t believe what I read… even if it was I who wrote it.