Podiatrists Tell Us How to Pick Sandals So Comfortable You Can Wear Them All Day

by Elizabeth Yuko
May 17, 2018 at 8:00 a.m. ET
Sandals on green grass background
Image: Vionic, Dr. Scholl's, SAS Shoes, Okabashi/Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows

Every year, as soon as the temperatures start rising and the sun comes out, so do the sandals. They're cute and let you skip the step of putting socks on in the morning (bonus: less laundry) and are usually pretty versatile. 

But sandals can also be extremely uncomfortable. All those buckles and straps and pieces of fabric — not to mention some very flat footbeds — that can rub you the wrong way means that sometimes, the first time you wear a pair of sandals is also the last time. 

“Most sandals are designed for fashion first,” Dr. Robert M. Conenello, a sports podiatrist and clinical advisor to the Special Olympics and American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, tells SheKnows. “They are usually very flat and do not incorporate materials that reduce stress through the lower extremity.”

The worst fashion-over-function sandal offenders, according to Dr. Karena Wu, a physical therapist and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy, are backless slip-on sandals (they force us to curl our toes to keep them on, which throws off our balance) and stilettos (a narrow base of support).

So, to start with, look at the footbed of the sandal and make sure it has some sort of arch support and isn't just a flat piece of plastic. “What you’re looking for in a sandal, for all-day wear, is a sandal that provides arch support instead of one that is flat,” Dr. Yolanda Ragland, founder of Fix Your Feet, tells SheKnows. “The sandal should have shock absorption, like a rubber- or cork-type sole. The sandal’s bottom should be firm, yet flexible. Look for a sandal that keeps toes in a more stable position, so they are not bending as much, and you can control the toe grip.”

Next, look at the straps.

“If you’re looking for a little ankle stability, find a sandal that has a gladiator style,” Ragland explains. “This style of ankle strap comes up around the ankle, offering ankle support and decreasing your chances of rotation of the ankle inwardly, which can cause a lateral ankle sprain.”

So, what can happen if you wear sandals without proper support? First of all, Dr. Armin Tehrany, founder of Manhattan Orthopedic Care and NYPD honorary surgeon, tells SheKnows that it's not uncommon for improper footwear, such as unsupportive summer sandals, to cause foot, knee and ankle pain.

"Prolonged use of unsupportive sandals throughout the warm-weather months can cause damage ranging from plantar fasciitis, knee pain and soreness," he explains.

Lastly, Dr. Steven Neufeld, an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon with The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics, gives SheKnows a few pointers on what to look for and avoid when buying sandals:

Here’s what to avoid, according to Neufeld:

  • Avoid shoes made of porous material or likely to hold water.
  • Avoid sandals that don’t fit exactly right. Shoes that are too large will increase your risk of tripping, and too-small sandals can damage toes that hang off the front.
  • Avoid flat, foam and sports sandals.

And here’s what to look for, according to Neufeld:

  • Look for shoes made out of a plastic material not likely to hold water.
  • Look for sandals with a supportable, moldable footbed — sometimes called “orthotic sandals.”
  • Look for wider straps to avoid blisters and provide more stability.
  • Look for a stiff sole, support and some traction.

Next, you'll find a few examples of sandals that meet these criteria.

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1 /6: Vionic Solana

1/6 :Vionic Solana

These sturdy sandals will be your go-to pair this summer. They're perfect for the office, running around and more formal events too — and come with Vionic's signature good-for-you footbed.

Solana heeled sandal, $139.95 at Vionic

2 /6: Dr. Scholl's Powers Sandal

2/6 :Dr. Scholl's Powers Sandal

Between the anatomical footbed and the adjustable straps, these are the perfect sandals for spending the day exploring a new city on vacation. 

Powers sandal, $49.95 at Dr. Scholl's

3 /6: SAS Shoes Simone Italy

3/6 :SAS Shoes Simone Italy

These soft blue suede shoes add a fun pop of color to your outfit but provide enough support that you can wear them all day. 

Simone Italy, $270 at SAS Shoes

4 /6: Vionic Kirra

4/6 :Vionic Kirra

Flat sandals are adorable, and you always think they're going to be comfortable, and then 15 minutes after putting them on, you're ripping them off and covering your new blisters with bandages. That won't be the case with these — between the orthotic bottom and soft leather upper, they'll keep you on your feet all day. 

Kirra sandal, $99.95 at Vionic

5 /6: SAS Delight

5/6 :SAS Delight

As far as heels go, wedges are as comfortable as they come. And yellow is an underrated neutral that goes with almost anything.

Delight, $153 at SAS Shoes

6 /6: Okabashi Indigo Classic

6/6 :Okabashi Indigo Classic

We all need a sturdy pair of flip-flops to throw on this summer, and the reflexology beads on the ergonomic footbed of these gently massage and stimulate feet.

Indigo Classic, $21.99 at Okabashi