Different parts of our country have divided opinions on the summer months. People in some regions eagerly look forward to this time of year so they can actually enjoy outdoor activities. In other areas, people find the increased heat to be downright oppressive.
One thing that binds us together as a nation, however, is this – flip-flops are an American summer staple no matter where you go!
Here’s the fact of the matter when it comes to these inexpensive, tried-and-true summer footwear:
They are fine to wear on a beach or poolside, but wearing them often and for longer than anything over a few hours can potentially do serious harm to your feet in the long run.
Since your feet are the keys to your mobility and independence, this can be rather concerning. After all, you don’t want foot pain to limit your options in life. And when it does develop, this pain can do exactly that.
Fortunately, not all sandals are poor choices!
One of the main problems with traditional flip-flops stems from the fact we all spend a lot of time walking and standing on hard, unnatural surfaces. As we do, the arches of our feet flatten. Now, that is quite normal, but your foot arches need a little extra support – something those soft, flimsy pieces of foam simply do not provide.
You might not realize this, but you take literally thousands of steps during an average day (and you should really strive for at least 10,000 for optimal health…). The cumulative forces from putting up to twice your bodyweight on the landing foot with every step add up throughout the day. In turn, the force loads can cause heel and arch pain from plantar fasciitis.
Further, pronation—a natural inwards rolling motion the foot goes through with every step—can become excessive without proper arch support. This is a concern because overpronation can lead to issues like bunions and cause misalignment issues in the ankle, knee, hip, and even farther up the body.
(The source of your lower back pain could actually be your feet!)
So instead of walking around in the traditional flip-flop, you should seek out sandals that more closely mimic a natural footprint. Models that cup the heel, have arch support, and offer superior cushion are a much better choice.
Of course, we realize that looks do still matter and you aren’t going to completely abandon style in the name of comfort and proper functionality.
The good news on that front is the fact sandal manufacturers have gotten smart about considering how feet actually function when designing their products. This has lead to an increase of sandals that work with natural foot function—instead of against it—and can keep feet safer.
With all of that in mind, here are some sandals (and sandal manufacturers) that are better for your health:
- Wellrox Newport – These sandals may look a bit different than what you’re used to, but those toe grippers in the front help secure your toes better when you walk. In doing so, they prevent all the necessary (and even potentially harmful) work toes have to do in order to keep traditional flip-flops on feet.
By keeping toes more naturally-aligned and spread, this sandal model can bring relief to aching feet and leg muscles, and may assist in promoting natural pronation patterns.
- CROCS Capri IV – Women who are seeking comfortable, supportive sandals that have a casual vibe, the Capri IV from CROCS could be exactly what you’re looking for! The heel has a slight elevation—not enough to worry about any concerns you should have with pumps and stilettos—and the footbed is shaped to work with a foot’s natural contours.
Those features create the base of a comfortable sandal-wearing experience, but the true icing on the proverbial cake are the inbuilt “massage pods.” If you’ve ever owned any other pair of CROCS footwear in the past, you are essentially guaranteed to dig these sandals.
- Teva – Comfort and fashion walk hand-in-hand with many types of Teva sandals. One area this company excels in is the use of ankle straps to secure their footwear to your feet.
A big problem with those traditional rubber thongs is the fact we constantly have to adjust the way we walk to keep them on our feet. No matter if you are picking your foot up too early during the swing phase or awkwardly contracting your toes, they can contribute to problems like tendonitis in the top of your feet.
In addition to the valuable foot straps, Teva features EVA cushioning to relieve stress on the tendons and muscles in your lower limbs. This lowers the risk for tendonitis – which is a fairly common problem for individuals who wear flip-flops.
- Vionic – Now this is a footwear manufacturer who listens to podiatrists! (Of course, it helps that the company was developed by foot specialists...)
Vionic takes pride in creating footwear that combines the best of both “form and function.” To ensure their shoes and sandals are as supportive as possible, the company acquired a different brand and now incorporates Orthaheel® technology in various footwear lines.
That is quite important to note because most Vionic sandals featuring Orthaheel® technology have been awarded the American Podiatric Medical Association’s (APMA) Seal of Acceptance – a distinction that is particularly impressive given the fact it is rare honor from an organization that has impeccably high standards.
(Basically, it is almost impossible to go wrong when you replace your old flip-flops with a pair of Vionic sandals.)
There are certainly other good options out there—something we probably couldn’t have said even as recently as 10 years ago!—but the key features to keep in mind when it comes to choosing sandals that are best for your feet include:
- Arch support
- Contoured footbeds
- Adjustable straps
- Soft uppers
- Sturdy rubber soles
- Antimicrobial footbeds
Features like those are important in various ways for providing optimal support, fit, comfort, and reducing your risk of fungal and bacterial infections – all of which are essential measures for optimal foot health!For more information on footwear that is actually good for your feet—or to request an appointment with our office to treat any foot or ankle issue that is causing problems for you—simply give Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists a call at (512) 328-8900 or contact us online right now.