With a change of seasons often comes a change of footwear — and when that season is summer, one of the most popular choices is sandals. While sandals can be cool, freeing and fashionable, they can also cause foot pain and even injure your feet if you don’t choose the right type.
So what makes for a “good” pair of sandals? As a general rule, they should have these three characteristics:
- A supportive sole
- Some type of back
While these guidelines clearly rule out flip-flops, it still can be hard to know exactly what type of sandals is best for you. Here are more features to look for:
- “Bump” in the insole: Look for a small raised “bump” in the center of the insole which is designed to provide arch support. Sandals that have it will keep your foot better aligned, and there will be less chance of it pronating (rolling inward) or supinating (rolling outward).
- Thick sole: When a sandal is too thin and flat, there is little protection of the heel and arch, which can result in foot pain over time. Keep in mind that when it comes to soles, a bit of heel height can be a good thing, although they should be short, chunky heels, not high-heel styles.
- Thick straps: If you’re looking for a new pair of sandals, try on styles with thick straps first — and the more straps the better, since they offer more support. Also, choose sandals that have back or ankle straps for optimal support.
- No gripping required: In a slide, flip-flop or any other open sandal, your toes must grip the sole to keep it from sliding off your foot. This can cause foot and toe pain, so avoid styles that require you to “grip” with your toes.
Best Sandals for Foot Conditions
Just because you’re dealing with a foot problem doesn’t mean you need to avoid sandals. Here are some tips if you have any of the following conditions:
- Bunions: Look for styles that allow your foot to breathe and provide as little covering as possible. Consider a toe post style that has ankle and back straps that offer a good fit while leaving the bunion alone.
- Plantar fasciitis: Choose sandals with a snug foot strap and a deep heel cup, which will help provide stability.
- Mallet toe or hammerhead toe: Choose open-toe styles that do not have an upper surface to rub against. Just make sure to choose sandals that also offer good overall support.
- Diabetic neuropathy: Open sandals can be useful if you have neuropathy because they help encourage good blood and air circulation. Try to avoid seams on the interior, since the friction can cause foot pain. If you choose a closed design, make sure the upper does not bind your foot in any way.
A final tip: Always try sandals on before buying them and don’t ignore warning signs — if your feet don’t feel comfortable the first time you put them on, chances are they won’t later either. If you’re buying sandals online, consider buying from a source that offers free return shipping, so you can return them if they don’t feel right.
Finally, keep in mind that an orthopedist, podiatrist or doctor can make you custom sandals using a mold of your foot. A custom sandal may be the best option if you are having a hard time finding a design that looks good, feels right and offers the proper support.