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.
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.