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How to Choose a Summer Shoe: A Podiatrist’s Perspective

Learn How to Choose a Summer Shoe - Flip Flops on a Beach

Summer is a great time to let your feet breathe! The convenience of a slip-on, slip-off summer shoe has many of us breaking out the flip flops and sandals. There’s only one problem: many summer shoes can wreak havoc on your feet if you wear them frequently or for long periods of time. Here, I’ll share some tips for how to choose a summer shoe so your feet can stay pain free!

Poor Summer Shoes Cause Problems

Summer shoes are traditionally light weight and low profile. This can cause your feet to bear a lot more load and impact than traditional lace-up shoes. Every summer, we see patients for foot pain resulting from bad flip flops and sandals. Here are a few of the common issues they’re dealing with when they come to see us.

Flimsy Shoes Strain the Plantar Fascia Ligament

One of the most common problems summer shoes can cause is Plantar fasciitis. Many flip flops and sandals are pretty flimsy and don’t cushion your foot from impact. Repeated impact puts increased strain on the plantar fascia ligament, which leads to inflammation.

Plantar fasciitis usually starts as a sharp pain in the heel of the foot and is worst first thing in the morning. Many cases can be resolved by stretching, icing and using good footwear. We can also use platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to tackle chronic cases of plantar fasciitis.

Poor Arch Support Can Strain Your Achilles Tendon

Achilles tendinitis is another common foot pain problem brought on (or made worse by) bad summer footwear. If you look at a cheap flip flop or sandal, you’ll notice that it is as flat as a dinner plate. In other words–no arch support!

When you foot does not have proper arch support, your body tries to make up for it by using other muscles, ligaments and joints. One of the first that gets impacted is the Achilles tendon, which runs from your heel bone up into your calf muscles.

A strained Achilles tendon can be quite painful, and the worse the injury, the longer the recovery time. Having proper arch support distributes forces properly throughout the foot and allows your body to stabilize itself .

Are You Walking Out of Your Shoe?

Lastly, your shoe should hang on to you, you shouldn’t have to hang on to your shoe! Summer shoes without a good heel cup of back strap can force your toes to “scrunch up” to avoid walking out of your sandal. This can lead to a condition known as “hammertoes,” where the toes no longer extend fully and properly. This can lead to joint pain, stiffness and reduced stability in the foot.

My Criteria for How to Choose a Summer Shoe

In the video above, I show the three most important factors in how to choose a summer shoe. We take five popular types of flip flops and sandals and look at what amount and type of us they are suitable for.

It’s hard to go wrong with a quality Chaco or Birkenstock, but there are other brands of sandals that also pass these three tests.

Rigidity – They Should be Hard to Bend

Cheap dollar store flip flops will make a sandwich almost as easily as white bread. You should not wear footwear that folds for any extended period of time!

A little bend in the forefoot (front third of the shoe) is alright, but from the midfoot on back, it should be very hard or impossible to bend.

Arch Support

A summer shoe that has arch support beats one that doesn’t any day! The longer you plan to be walking or on your feet in a summer shoe, the more important it is that the arch support match your foot shape. Do you have flat feet or high arches? If you don’t know, it’s a great idea to see a podiatrist to evaluate what type of arch support best matches your needs.

If you find your feet “falling inward,” when you stand or walk, you may not have enough arch support. Frequent foot and ankle pain can also be an indicator. Make sure to get used to a new pair of sandals little by little until you know if they work for you. Don’t buy a pair just before vacation and then spend all day in them!

Heel Containment – Keep Your Shoe on You!

As I mentioned before, summer shoes tend to be minimalist in design. A feature I like to see on a summer shoe is a back strap for the heel (or at least a very deep heel cup). If you’re going to walk any distance, having the ability to keep your shoe with you, rather than have your toes flex to hold it in place, reduces strain on your foot a lot!

Already Have Foot Pain? It’s Not Too Late!

If you have foot pain from low-quality summer shoes, don’t ignore it. The sooner we find and fix your foot problem, the sooner you’ll be walking and standing pain-free. Want to learn more? Call us at 865-524-1234 or fill out the form below!

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