There’s an age-old dilemma that crops up about this time, year upon year.
Many love the seasonal shift – back to bare limbs, toe nail polish in gelato-inspired shades, tanks and tees… sounds great doesn’t it? Summer footwear however, can be a challenge.
It comes down to fashion versus function. Do you sacrifice comfort and body mechanics for the cool appeal of a brightly-hued jandal or a surf-style sandal?
Poorly designed footwear leads to inflammation of foot muscles and tendons, foot deformities and can set off a chain of events that result in ankle, knee, hip and back pain. But some summer sandals that do provide adequate support and stability are just so… well… unappealing!
Is there ever a footwear option that ticks all boxes? The market is definitely heading that way with more diverse options than ever before. You can keep muscles and joints happy, without totally compromising on style.
Footwear manufacturers are starting to get it. People want support, comfort, and to be active in summer footwear, but with a look not necessarily confined to hiking trails and backpacker sojourns.
So how to choose a summer sandal best for you?
Here are just a few pointers most podiatrists agree on:
1) Get the fit right
It sounds so simple, but it’s easy to get this basic wrong. Don’t let a sale price, or awesome style (that just isn’t comfortable!) lure you into a purchase.
Straps should be snug without pinching or rubbing, and your foot should not hang off the back, side or front of the shoe. If the shoe has a closed toe, make sure the toe box is deep enough to allow the toes to wiggle, but not with so much room the feet slide causing blister formation.
2) Look for arch support
A raised midsole will give the arch support, which is critical to help prevent muscle fatigue and cramps. While the forefoot can have a bit of flexibility, if the entire shoe twists and bends easily it’s not going to cut it in the support stakes.
3) Quality materials
Leather, suede or fabric lets the feet breathe and prevents blistering. Neoprene is great for absorbing shock and nylon webbing/polyurethane is going to be super quick drying and good for water activities. If the innersole is absorbent and breathable, sweating and slipping is reduced.
4) Strap placement
It starts as a tolerable irritation at the back of the heel, but a-half hour later it’s a full-blown raw blister that leaves you barefoot and hobbling. Yep, that’s all about strap placement.
Heel straps should hit just below the ankle and ideally should be lined to prevent chaffing. Watch out for straps that rub against the top of the foot and between the toes – equally agonising!
5) Choose the right sandal for the activity
If you regularly wear sandals for prolonged activity it’s worthwhile investing in a pair specific to the job.
For hiking and trail-walking look for rugged outsoles, stiff midsoles and straps that encase the whole foot snugly. These factors will give you the most stability across uneven terrain. Closed toe-boxes will give more protection against sticks, rocks and cobbles (and are ideal for the more clumsy of us), but consider open toe sandals will be lighter, more breathable and quicker drying.
Finally, Jandals – are they really that bad?
Kiwis have had a love affair with this summer shoe since they first gained popularity in the ‘60s, but they’re notorious for their pain-inducing properties and lack of support.
Recent years have seen a new generation of jandals that are somewhat more supportive. Look for arch rise through the midsole and a thicker cushioning through the heel. Because jandals, by design, don’t have straps around the heel and ankle, stability is always going to be compromised. That’s not to say they don’t have their place – just best to leave these babies for the beach, pool and café.
Need more help with summer footwear selection? Get advice and see our extensive range in-store at The Athletes Foot.