Don’t Wear Sandals!

Okay… summer is here again and that means it’s time to wear sandals! Or is it? 

I’ve become a recent fan of Dr. Oz, or some may call him the “Wizard of Oz”. He has a daily TV show that features stories on how to improve our lives by making the right health choices. On one show he featured a podiatrist, a doctor who specializes in foot care. The audience was told “Don’t wear sandals”. That is, of course, unless you’re at the beach, which is the ONLY exception to the rule. Needless to say, this was shocking! How many of us long for the change in weather so we can throw off the boots, the shoes and the socks and get as close as we can to being barefoot. It is a great release, freedom and comfort. When I worked and travelled through the Middle East, I admired and envied those who had the freedom to wear sandals 24/7 for work and play. So, here in Canada when spring has sprung, sandals (or flip flops) become the norm. And for many, that norm is even brought into the workplace, since sandals have come in their own right a fashion statement and accessory. But again, the experts warn, “Don’t wear sandals unless you are at the beach”. It just seems to be such a heretical statement. But read the reasons why it isn’t:

“Wearing sandals/flip flops was once considered a fashion faux pas; it was a shoe reserved only for beach goers or a quick stroll to the mailbox on a hot summer day. However, in recent years, wearing sandals/flip flops has become considerably more fashion forward, if not perfectly acceptable footwear for lunch, a dinner date, or even a congressional meeting at the White House. In fact, wearing flip flops has become so popular that many major designers from J. Crew to Lands’ End are designing them for the masses. However, sports medicine and podiatry experts are warning that wearing sandals/flip flops could be bad for our bodies. There are many reasons why wearing sandals/flip flops could be harmful to our bodies and the scientific studies are there to back it up. As a rule, sandals/flip flops are not particularly supportive shoes even if they are comfortable and cool to wear. There is virtually no arch support to a sandal/flip flop shoe and wearing them excessively can in fact impact the feet, legs, and lower back.  Further, by sheer nature of design, wearing sandals/flip flops causes us to change our gait. A shoe that isn’t exactly designed to conform to the foot, the sandal/flip flop doesn’t stay on the foot well. In order to walk without losing a shoe, people subconsciously change the way they walk. Over a long period of time, excessive wearing of sandals/flip flops could lead to foot, leg and back pain. The long-term effect of wearing sandals/flip flops has been cautioned against, but some podiatrists also warn of short-term effects. Wearing sandals/flip flops instead of more appropriate footwear for certain activities, especially when excessive walking is involved, can lead to injured feet and ankles. The stability of sandals/flip flops is lacking, making it more likely to slip, trip, fall and subsequently twist an ankle.” 

But we chose to ignore the advice of experts and then complain when our selfish decision results in calamity!

That last point was made real to me when a few months ago during the regular spring cleanup at the cottage I began my chores wearing sandals. I was raking and blowing leaves off the property at the water’s edge which is quite steep. I lost my balance, my ankle twisted and I even ripped off the nail from my big toe (ouch!). I scolded myself for being so careless as to attempt such an activity without the proper footwear. What a difference the right work boots would have made to my health and performance!

But a more important message was made real to me. 

How many of us attempt to walk the journey of life without being properly prepared?

We fail to prepare ourselves financially, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Then, when a crook in the road attempts to throw us off our planned direction, a steep hill seems impossible to climb, the torrential rain tries to blind us or a pothole shakes our wellbeing, we lose control resulting in unnecessary harm and injury. In contrast, if we were well prepared and balanced in all aspects of our life, for the most part, life’s journey can be quite an enjoyable adventure in spite of its surprises along the way.

"On life's journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him." - Buddha

I also discovered a second important message from this simple experience about the ongoing journey called “corporate life”. Are our companies prepared for gruelling and lengthy business battles? We wonder why the competition (i.e. “the enemy”) is doing better than us or how we are going to fight an economic storm. But when we examine what we are wearing on our corporate feet, it is no wonder our companies are weakened and hurting! We lack direction, we don’t have the proper technology, we failed to map out the right processes, we hire the wrong people, we won’t invest in training to develop our talent, and we ignore the importance of a winning culture.  Our companies simply have on the wrong footwear to win the battle! We choose to ignore the advice of business experts leading to our eventual regret!

"One defends when his strength is inadequate; he attacks when it is abundant!" - Sun Tau - The Art of War

For many of us whether personal or corporate, life isn’t a beach. So, don’t wear sandals!