Since becoming a doctor and working in California, I have learned that it is near impossible to get my patients to wear athletic shoes every day of the week. It may be 70 degrees and sunny most of the year in San Diego, but wearing flip-flops, or walking around barefoot, every day is not the best thing for your feet. If you ARE going to wear sandals this summer, though, check out my tips below for trying to find better sandals for your feet, which may help provide some support and cushion and, in turn, prevent some associated foot problems.
1. AMOUNT OF MATERIAL.
The less sandal there is (i.e. your typical flip-flops), the more your toes have to grip and the more your foot has to work to keep the sandal on. Therefore, the more material that holds the sandals onto your feet or goes around your ankles, the less your feet have to work. That is why, ultimately, closed toe shoes are better for your feet than sandals. Notice that the sandals below have multiple straps, including those that go around the ankle.
2. HEEL HEIGHT.
For many people, having a little bit of a heel in the shoe is actually better than a wearing a completely flat shoe or sandal. As the heel is lifted, it can help recreate the arch of your foot, which takes tension off certain soft tissue structures running along the bottom and inside of the foot. You have to be careful, though, because as soon as you get to a 2-inch heel or higher, more than half of your body weight gets transmitted across your forefoot, which can contribute to other foot problems.
3. ARCH SUPPORT.
Sandals with built-in arch supports are becoming more popular and accessible. Like having a slight heel in the sandal, the arch support can help take tension off certain soft tissue structures in the foot. The arch support tends to be fairly standard, though, so if you have a severely high-arched foot, it may still not be enough to support your specific arch height.
A sandal with added cushion will inherently feel better underneath your feet than an uncushioned sandal or one composed of very little material. The left sandal below by Vionic is has a dual-density midsole with an EVA footbed, while the sandal on the right by FitFlop is composed of their microwobbleboard™ midsole.
As you can see, not all sandals are created equal and some may even give you the added support or cushion that a different sandal may not provide. Before purchasing these products, it is recommended that you consult your healthcare professional.
Disclaimer: The above information is meant for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your own healthcare professional for questions and concerns related to your health.