Summer Sandals that Won’t Kill Your Feet
After getting blasted by nor’easter after nor’easter, and snow storms in April, this might be hard to believe. But it’s true.
Summer IS coming!
And when the hot temperatures decide to stick around for good, many of us are going to be digging the open-toed footwear out of the closet.
Sandals have a lot of advantages. The fresh air keeps your feet from sweating up a storm, which can actually help you prevent athlete’s foot and other infections (as long as you’re keeping up with your hygiene). Plus, if you’ve had a recent pedicure, you get to show off your awesome toes!
But sandals have a lot of potential pitfalls, too—especially in a city like New York. You’re probably familiar with most of them.
This is, after all, the concrete jungle, and it won’t take a whole lot of walking before sandals with poor foot support and cushioning start causing you problems. If you’re lucky, they might just hurt really bad—no blisters.
Plus, exposed toes are more vulnerable to getting kicked, stepped on, or making contact with some unidentifiable substance on the streets or the subway. Eww!
For many of us, a lightweight yet breathable closed shoe is the best compromise. But for those of you dedicated to the sandal life, read on for some tips on how to keep your feet from getting massacred.
Your Flip Flops Probably Belong in the Garbage, Not on Your Feet
Okay, okay. That’s maybe too harsh.
But flip flops in general are not a great idea for just about any situation, except maybe the public showers or a hot, sandy beach.
For one, they offer virtually no support for your foot or arch, and no cushioning for your heel. So your feet get tired and uncomfortable fast, especially on pavement.
Two, you probably have to completely change the way you walk just to keep the flappy things from sliding off your feet. That puts added stress on various muscles and joints, causing even more pain.
Three, that flimsy foam and all that flipping and flopping leaves you particularly vulnerable to all kinds of nasty injuries—glass cuts, puncture wounds, etc.
So flip flops are out. But what should you look for instead?
Better Grip for the Foot
Sandals that flop and slide around and don’t stay put on your foot usually pull your entire body out of alignment. You have to reconfigure your gait pattern around them. Do that for more than a couple minutes at a time, and it’ll get old fast.
There are a couple of ways to accomplish this. Sandals with ankle straps generally do a pretty good job of stabilizing your feet and gait patterns. However, thicker straps (at least a quarter of an inch) across the front of the foot, or even “toe sandals” with individual strips between each digit can work as well. By contrast, a single, simple thong probably won’t cut it.
This is sort of a companion to “better grip.” For the most part, adjustable straps are better than non-adjustable ones, particularly around the ankle. Not only does this help you get the fit you want, but you can even adjust it throughout the day as your feet swell.
You obviously don’t want the straps so tight they get uncomfortable or cut off your circulation. But you don’t want them so loose that the sandal shifts back and forth on your foot. In either case, the result can be painful blistering. About 3mm of “wiggle room” is a good target.
The fact that it’s a sandal doesn’t mean you should expect or tolerate any less support for your feet than you would from a pair of shoes.
Completely flat sandals won’t provide much in the way of long-term comfort. Instead, you’re going to want a soft, countered footbed. That means built-in support for the arch, as well as a slight indentation to cup and support the heel.
If you ordinarily wear orthotics or find yourself struggling with foot pain no matter what you put on your feet, you might consider checking out Vionic. This brand of footwear was co-developed by a podiatrist and focuses especially on comfort and biomechanics, plus they allow you to wear-test your sandals for 30 days (as long as you buy from an authorized retailer).
Flexibility (But Not Too Much Flexibility)
When you take a step, your foot naturally rolls and flexes to absorb the impact. Your arch flattens ever so slightly. Your ankle pronates just a bit. So you need your sandals to have a little give to them as well, in both the soles and the straps.
That’s not the same thing as flimsy, of course—you shouldn’t be able to fold or crush your sandals either! Basically, you’re looking for a give similar to what you’d find in a good pair of athletic sneakers.
Do You Need a Walking or Hiking Sandal?
If you’re planning on spending an entire day in your sandals—not just an hour or so at a time—you really ought to consider buying a pair made specifically for all-day comfort.
Although you may or may not want to actually hike in a hiking sandal, the additional shoe-like features (tougher outsoles, treads, midsoles) typically make them sturdier and more comfortable over longer timeframes and distances. They’re maybe not as fashionable out in the city, but the cool breeze on your feet is nice just the same.
Well, we certainly hope you’re able to find a good and comfortable pair of sandals for your outdoor activities this summer! Remember, if you develop any sort of pain or discomfort along the way, you can always give us a call here at Advanced Footcare Associates. Just call the offices closest to you and swing on by!
- Rego Park: (718) 896-4433
- Plainview: (516) 822-9595
Flushing: (718) 969-2266