Just How Bad Are Sandals for Your Feet?
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Best for: Leisurely lunches; stylish air travel options
Avoid: Running through amusement parks; long summertime strolls
Doctor's note: While straps around your ankle area and higher (like gladiator-style picks) do offer additional stability and may prevent twisted or sprained ankles, Andersen says, if the bottom of the shoe is still flat as a pancake, that sandal is doing nothing to support your foot. There is hope, however, if you opt for sandals with arch support. Contoured sandals helped keep arches elevated much better than going barefoot or wearing flat sandals, found a small 2014 study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research. Their benefit was just slightly less than that of orthotics.
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Best for: Lounging at the beach or pool; protecting your feet from germy locker room shower floors
Avoid: Distances longer than the parking lot to the sand and driving (they can slip off and get lodged beneath car foot pedals). And if you suffer from poor circulation or diabetes-induced numbness in your feet, you really shouldn't be wearing flip-flops out and about, says Andersen. If a foreign body like a rock or piece of glass gets lodged in your foot, you're less likely to feel it and remove it, and that could lead to infection.
Doctor's note: Like contoured sandals, flip-flops with built-in arch support are by far a better choice than the flat variety, says Andersen. "Some are as good as orthotics, or even athletic shoes."
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Best for: Camp counseling; pointing out constellations in the night sky
Avoid: Hiking; any activity that qualifies as a trek
Doctor's note: Break them in by wearing them around your home so you know how they feel before you wear them outside.
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Best for: Getting around the office on summer Mondays through Thursdays; standing during a speech or a toast
Avoid: Rushing to catch a flight; trying to get anywhere in a hurry, really
Doctor's note: "Cork and raffia soles offer better shock absorption," says Brenner. "Wood is very rigid, which can cause your foot to overcompensate. This can lead to instability and extra pressure on the knees and hips. With wooden sandals, look for a rubberized sole that helps with shock absorption."
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Best for: Swaying at a mellow concert; preparing hors d'oeuvres for a party
Avoid: Sightseeing around Europe
Doctor's note: "If you're going to be doing a lot of walking, your best bet, really, is a pair of stylish athletic sneakers," says Brenner.
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Best for: Family reunions; picnicking in the park
Avoid: Energetic frolicking (especially in the rain)
Doctor's note: "The fabric would be more comfortable for those with calluses and bunions that are irritated by leather straps and hardware," says Brenner.
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Best for: Cruising on a bicycle built for two; chilling at a backyard barbecue
Avoid: They may look sporty, but they're not intended for walking or standing for long periods of time
Doctor's note: Don't be fooled by their relative comfort. "I work with a lot of professional women who think these are their 'safe shoes,' but they can cause a lot of problems," says Brenner.
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Best for: Adding height at a crowded rooftop party
Avoid: Dancing at said party, climbing stairs; chasing after children
Doctor's note: "For a wedding or other formal occasion, consider styles from Easy Spirit, Aldo or Stella McCartney—pricey but worth it," says Brenner. Try adding padded insoles or arch cushions from the drugstore.
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Best for: Boosting height, confidence, sex appeal and personal style (just remember that 8 weeks on crutches can undo it all)
Avoid: Walking (ask someone to carry you!); fulfilling your bridesmaid duties on the dance floor
Doctor's note: "Get your feet properly measured," says Brenner. "Go at the end of the day, when feet are most swollen, and have the length and width measured while standing up, because shoes fit differently when you're sitting down. I'm a believer in custom orthotics that have been prescribed by a doctor. The Cobra orthotic is made to be worn in high-heeled shoes, and provides a little metatarsal cushioning and midfoot control."
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Best for: Dining alfresco; watching a play at an outdoor theater
Avoid: Museum tours; hopscotch, any kind of long walk; actual ballet
Doctor's note: If you wear ballet flats at work, stash them at your desk and commute in sneakers, suggests Brenner. Your feet will thank you.