When you live in a warmer climate, or when you’re facing a long, hot summer, choosing supportive footwear becomes challenging.
It’s one thing for me to tell patients to opt for sneakers when they’re spending the day on their feet. But when it’s 95 degrees with 90 percent humidity, wearing socks and closed-shoes is completely unappealing.
Of course, flip-flops are always appealing. Cheap, fairly comfortable and always easy to slip on-and-off, flip flops are always a favorite in Houston and other hot cities.
The thing is, wearing flip flops is basically the same as going barefoot. Yes, flip-flops protect the bottom of your feet from sharp objects and contagious foot fungi, but that’s about all that they do well.
They leave your toes completely unprotected, so you’re vulnerable to injuries from bumping into hard objects or, worse, from anything that drops on your feet or toes.
They are also completely flat, meaning that flip-flops offer absolutely no arch support. Without arch support, many people find themselves experiencing foot pain, even if their feet are otherwise perfectly healthy!
Also, flip-flops are notoriously thin. They offer almost no protection when your foot strikes hard pavement. As a result, your feet absorb almost all of the impact, making pain and injury more likely when you’re in thongs or other flip flops.
Better-For-You Summer Foot Wear
Now that you know what I don’t want you to wear when the temperatures heat up, let’s explore some safer options.
Although the official sandal season is drawing to a close, unofficially, it’s always sandal season here! To keep your feet safe and comfortable all year-round, here are my top five, Houston podiatrist-approved tips for making sandal wearing a bit easier on your feet. Thanks to one of my favorite foot-friendly websites, Bustle, for helping me build-out some of the tricks and tools of the podiatry trade into fashion-friendly suggestions!
Five Ways to Stay Safe and Comfy in Sandals
Rule #1: More is More. Backless sandals may be cute (and make for fewer tan lines) but when it comes to your shoes, more material means more support, not to mention less foot pain. When you walk in shoes without backings, your toes have to grip down to keep your shoe in place. Plus, your heels slide back and forth, causing damage to your skin and possibly leading to the buildup of calluses (hardened areas of skin that develop overtime as a result of repetitive friction.) As a rule of thumb, if you’re spending more than an hour or two in a pair of sandals, make sure they have a back end to prevent rubbing and other problems.
Rule #2: Make SURE the shoe fits. When you find the last pair of designer sandals on sale, and they’re just a touch too big, the temptation is to buy them anyways, since the looser-style shoe lends itself to a broader sizing interpretation. In fact, some women think of this idea as a ‘shoe hack;’ they buy shoes that are a little too large, so that, if their feet start to swell, the shoes will still fit (I’m looking in your direction, Meghan Markle.) I understand how hard it can be to walk away from an otherwise perfect pair of shoes, but I’m here to warn you—DON’T give in to temptation! Wearing sandals that are even half a size too large can lead to blisters and, over time, foot pain caused by the extra gripping you need to do to keep your shoes in place while you walk (see Rule #1 for further clarification.)
Rule #3: Go for a stretch. As anyone who’s lived through our insanely-hot summers can attest, feet swell in warm weather. If you choose a pair of sandals with some give in them (for example, a pair equipped with elastic straps) the shoes are less likely to cut into your feet. In turn, the shoes will be less likely to cause discomfort as your feet naturally expand throughout the day. This, again, is a better way to handle foot swelling than buying shoes that are too big (check back with Rule #2 if you’ve forgotten my previous points.)
Rule #4: Get creative. Do you have a pair of sandals that gives you blisters every time you wear them? Here’s a little trick that just might help. Figure out what spot on the shoes is rubbing or cutting into your skin, then place some padded adhesive strips on that area or, if you don’t have any, try rubbing some of your antiperspirant on the spot. Yes, I’m for real: antiperspirant makes your feet less likely to sweat and slicken up, reducing the odds that your feet will rub uncomfortably against the side of your shoe. Of course, if these hacks don’t help, you should stop wearing shoes that hurt your feet. I know that’s common sense, but it bears repeating for my die-hard shoe lovers.
Rule #5: Plan ahead. Don’t set your sandals up to fail. You wouldn’t wear sneakers to a wedding (most likely) so why would you put on a pair of flip-flops for an all day hike? If you know you’re going to be on your feet all day, choose a super-supportive shoe and leave the more open styles for days around town or by the pool. You can live with slightly sweaty feet for one day, can’t you? I mean, isn’t that preferable to a full week of foot pain?