Unhappy Feet – Are thongs making my feet hurt?

Unhappy Feet – Are thongs making my feet hurt?

By Eliot Denver – Senior Physiotherapist


unhappy feet


It’s that time of year again when Christmas is just around the corner, and so is summer! This is the time when we swap more supportive shoes for thongs and other lighter summer shoes, or none at all. Our Physios at Your Health Domain also know this is the time when more people present for treatment for foot, ankle and shin pain.

So what’s the link between thongs and foot pain?


thongs pic

There are two main factors that you need to consider:

  1. 1)The lack of support and,
  2. 2)The length of time they are worn.

There has been a huge amount of research into shoes for running and walking, in particular; the materials that will absorb load best, shape and size of postings underneath the shoe and arch and heel support. Biomechanical testing during all sorts of sporting and leisure activities has been done to figure out the right combination of each of these factors to withstand the forces and stress we place on our feet (and whole body) during exercise and activity.


foot diagrams



Now think about your thongs… how do they compare?

Most thongs are just a couple of pieces of plastic or rubber loosely held together under the guise of footwear. As there is no external (extrinsic) support to the foot this means a great deal of stress is placed on the internal (intrinsic) mechanisms that support your foot; namely the bones, ligaments and muscles.

There are four main lower leg injuries that we commonly see from overuse of wearing thongs:

  1. 1)Plantar fasciitis

One of the most common sites of foot pain during summer is underneath the heel where the plantar fascia originates at the heel on the inside of your foot. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue which runs along the foot to the bottom of the toes. Plantar fasciitis is when this fascia becomes inflamed and can be a very painful. Warning signs for this condition include pain under the arch of the foot, pain with first steps in the morning and tenderness at the heel where the fascia originates. Left untreated, plantar fasciitis can be debilitating so it is very important to get it checked out by a Physiotherapist at the first sign of a problem. 


achilles plantar diagram


  1. 2)Metatarsalgia

If you are experiencing pain under the ball of your foot you may be experiencing metatarsalgia. This occurs when pain is emanating from the end of your metatarsal bones near the base of your toes. This is due to the extra stress and forces when walking with little padding or support to that part of the foot. Sneakers and other shoes help to avoid this problem as they have cushioning material in the shoe under that part of your foot.


feet diagram


  1. 3)Achilles Tendinopathy

The Achilles on the back of the ankle is another common sight of pain during the summer months. The two main calf muscles combine together at the Achilles which inserts into the back of the heel bone or calcaneus. Spending lots of time in unsupportive shoes, such as thongs, means extra strain is placed on this tendon due to increased movement of the rearfoot and calcaneus, leading to tendinopathy. You can get problems either along the tendon or where the tendon attaches into the heel bone. Achilles tendinopathy is a condition which can linger for a long time if left untreated. Physios use a mixture of joint mobilisations, stretching and strengthening to allow adequate healing of the tendon.


leg muscles diagram


  1. 4)Shin splints

There are many different reasons you might get pain in the shins. When you wear thongs a lot during summer this changes the way you use the muscles in that part of your leg. Without realising it, your walking pattern changes with less “push off” through your toes to avoid the much-loved thongs falling off. This means that you use the muscles in your feet and shins more than usual in order to hold your thongs on. Consequently, these muscles do not go through the normal cycle of contract and relax and being contracted more results in pain in the feet and shins. The lack of support and padding in thongs may also be a reason for extra “impact” stress being sent up through the shin. Shin splints are one of those conditions that should not be ignored. You can’t “push through” the pain as doing so will inevitably just make it worse and take longer to recover. The Physiotherapists at Your Health Domain can do a thorough assessment of your whole leg, pelvis and lower back (as well as footwear of course) to check out why you might be getting shin pain.


So, this summer, spare a thought for your feet. In order to prevent lower leg problems our Physiotherapists at Your Health Domain recommend you;

  1. 1)Save thongs for occasions that don’t require prolonged walking
  2. 2)Increase the amount of time you spend in your thongs gradually
  3. 3)Purchase thongs with inbuilt arch support i.e. Orthoheel thongs
  4. 4)Watch out for the onset of foot, leg or shin pain and get it checked out ASAP

Remember, the team at Your Health Domain are here if you need help. To arrange an appointment please contact us on 9251 5111 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

pilates timetable



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Level 7 60 Pitt Street Sydney 2000
Hours of Operation:
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(02) 9251-5111

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