by Patricia Staszak, PT, PYT
The sun is coming out–and so are the sandals! Unfortunately, many of the summer’s most popular shoes are the ones with the least amount of support. In this blog post, I’ll be talking about what you should look for in a summer sandal (and what you should avoid!) so that you can enjoy all of your favorite summer activities without pain or discomfort.
When it gets hot out, it can be tempting to pass on sturdier footwear in favor of lighter, thinner flip-flops or sandals. But while these options may at first seem more comfortable, you’ll find that after a long day, they can leave you feeling weak or tired. Good shoes provide you with support, encourage a normal gait pattern and aid in balancing your body over your feet–allowing you to stand and move comfortably for longer periods of time.
When it comes finding a pair of sandals with effective support, keep the following characteristics in mind:
The sole is one of the most important components of a supportive shoe. The sole should fit and support your foot, but still be flexible enough for you to roll through your foot and push off from your big toe with each step. The shape of a sole can also provide support. A wider shoe generally offers more support than a narrower one.
A good pair of sandals will have a backstrap to stabilize the heel when walking and keep the shoe in place as you move through a natural gait pattern. Many common summer shoes, such as flip-flops, are missing this component, making it challenging to maintain a natural gait pattern. Flip-flops force you to take shorter steps, and you may find yourself curling or clenching your toes to keep the shoe from falling off of your foot.
Thankfully, it is much easier than it used to be to find sandals that are both supportive and (relatively) fashionable. Here are a few of my favorite options for summer shoes that don’t skimp on the support:
The classic style of Chaco sandals (pictured below) hits all the major checkpoints for a supportive shoe: the sole is thick and sturdy, the adjustable straps allow you to properly secure the shoe to your foot and the backstrap helps you to maintain a natural gait pattern.
Vionic also offers a number of great options for summer sandals, such as the Amber style pictured below. The sole is thick enough to absorb shock while still flexible enough to allow for a natural gait pattern. And the footbed is molded to help provide extra support where it is most needed. The Amber sandal’s thick backstrap makes this style a particularly good choice from the Vionic range.
The ABEO B.I.O.system range offers a number of excellent sandal options. In addition to having a sturdy sole and backstrap, shoes from this brand can be customized with additional support where you need it. For example, for those whose feet have a tendency to collapse inwards or fall flat as they move, ABEO offers a footbed that provides extra support for the medial (inside) of the foot. For those with high arches, there’s a footbed with enhanced metatarsal support, which can help to relieve pain and pressure at the front of the foot. Below are two of the options from this brand: the women’s Laguna style and the men’s Brody style.
These, of course, are not the only brands that offer sandals that fit these guidelines, but they are definitely a good place to start if you’re just starting to think about how your shoes can provide you with the support you need. It may not seem like a big deal, especially if you aren’t currently experiencing any pain in your feet, but give it a try. You may find that a solid, supportive shoe is the foundation you need to feel strong and comfortable throughout the day–leaving you with the energy to delve into all that a Chicago summer has to offer.