Every summer thousands of new flip-flop and sandal styles emerge. Some have jewels on top, others come in a variety of colors to match just about any outfit they come up against, and others still are made to entice the sportier athletic fashionista. Sorting through all of these styles and colors is of course important, so as to avoid a summer faux-pa, but it is also important that you assess the functionality of the sandal as well as the support that it does or does not possess.
Most people understand that sandals do not provide the best support, and their understanding is correct! There are far better alternatives available, but sometimes the alternatives just don’t make the cut, especially during the summer months. Therefore, it becomes important to select sandals and flip-flops that, although they might not be comparable to sneakers, still offer some supportive benefit and decrease your risk of injury and stress on the bones, joints, and muscles of the foot and ankle.
Avoid sandals that are flat and look like they provide zero support. If they look that way, then they probably are that way. It’s better to select a sandal that has a slight arch in the middle of the footbed helping to keep your foot more erect when standing, versus rolling inward in an attempt to meet the sole of the sandal. When the foot rolls inward, it changes the position of the leg in relation to the foot and affects the muscles of the foot and leg that stabilize the ankle. When those muscles are stretched and strained out of their natural positioning, not only does stability decrease, but the pain typically increases as those areas try to heal themselves and eliminate extra tension.
Selecting sandals with more straps than less is also a good idea. Straps help hold the foot onto the sandal rather than having it slide off the side where part of your foot may be hitting the ground instead. Select sandals with straps across the top of the foot and around the ankle to increase stability and hold your foot in a position much better than straps that only go across the top of the foot. The traditional flip-flop has a strap between the big toe and the second toe, but irritation there is very common and can be avoided by choosing a style without a strap in that location.
Don’t walk long distances or attempt athletic activities in sandals. Since there is very little surrounding and stabilizing the foot on the sandal or flip-flop, the motion of the foot is left to do as it pleases. This is not a good thing, as your risk of injury greatly increases. Allowing the foot to move any which way it desires usually means that it will move in ways that it was not intended to. This can lead to twisting and bending of the foot and/or ankle and increases your chance of tripping, twisting an ankle, or spraining a ligament or muscle.
It is also important to take inventory of the sandals in your closet, especially those from last summer. If the sandal shoes significant wear it might be time to trade them in for something new. Since sandals offer little support initially, they seem to offer no support at all after a full season of wear. Take this opportunity to do a little shopping, being mindful of what to look for in a sandal that offers most support than less!
As with all things, moderation is key! Despite which, sandal use choose, the supportive benefit they can offer is secondary to a sneaker or a shoe with a custom-molded orthotic device. If you’re headed to a wedding or a July 4th barbeque, by all means, use your fashion sense and wear your matching sandals, but don’t get into the habit of wearing those sandals all day, every day. It’s important to get your feet back into something more supportive, decreasing unnecessary stresses on the muscles, ligaments, and joints of the feet!