Spring is just around the corner and I’m already dipping several toes, literally, into sandal season. Even though I love cute shoes, shoe shopping is always a love-hate activity for me. Not calling out either side of my genetic tree here, but y’all, I was not blessed with good feet. Here they are in all of their achy glory. :-/
My podiatric woes include…
- Long feet: We’re talking pontoon-sized, y’all. I wear size 10.5 to 11 in most shoes. This wouldn’t be so bad if I were 6 feet tall, but at 5’5″, it’s a bit of an imbalance. This added length puts a lot of pressure on my forefoot and toe area.
- Long toes: Especially my middle toe, which is longer than all of the rest. Whenever I toe off when walking, running, or jumping, this puts a lot of pressure on those middle toes, resulting in major soreness.
- Bunions: Ugh. I didn’t know what bunions were until a few years ago when the bones beneath my big toes started to really stick out and ache. Google helped me self-diagnose them, but the doctor’s office confirmed that’s what they were. Fabulous.
- Arthritis: I’ve had a few stress fractures in my forefeet over the years, mostly from running and adding mileage too quickly. They have healed, but they’ve left behind a little arthritis here and there.
- Ankle pain: Okay, ankles aren’t feet, but because if my various foot issues, when I overdo it or wear the wrong shoes for too long, it also makes my ankles ache.
Because of all of these issues, I have to be really careful about what shoes I wear, especially if I’m going to wear them for a long day of classroom teaching or heavy duty walking around. Gone are the days when I could grab a pair of $10 shoes in “almost” my size off of the rack and wear them blissfully.
I’m sure I’m not the only one out there with foot issues, especially since they seem to multiply the older you get (or is that just my feet?). Having the fun foot problems I have now in my mid-40s makes me a little nervous about what they’ll be like as I get older, but hopefully if I take better care of them now, it won’t be THAT much worse, right? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. So that’s why I decided to do a series on shoes that won’t make things worse for feet — and that might even help them feel better. In today’s post I’ll be sharing some sandals that I’ve found over the years that make my feet feel good!
Features of Foot-Friendly Sandals
I’m not a podiatrist, but I have found the following features help my feet feel better at the end of a long day of walking.
- Supportive and cushion-y foot bed
- Thicker straps
- Ergonomic shaped soles/foot bed
- Flat style
- Soft, non-stick foot bed
- Good fit (no rubbing to cause blisters or cramping, no heel slipping, etc.)
- Wiggle room in the toe box area (For me, that means absolutely no pointed toe shapes. Boo.)
Here are some brands I’ve had good luck with. I know most of these are really expensive shoes (well, for my budget anyway), but I have found investing in my feet is worth it since I have to be on them so much for my job. Sometimes I do find inexpensive sandals in other brands that have some or all of the above features, but it’s often hit and miss. With the brands below, I have been able to consistently find something that looks good and makes my feet happy.
My all-time favorite most-comfortable-ever sandal has got to be the Birkenstock Arizona. I first discovered them back in college in the early 90s, and I was impressed that I could walk all over campus without any blisters, soreness, or achiness. Flash forward almost 30 years (yikes, really?) and I’m back to wearing them again. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I have 3 pairs of Birks, and I tend to add another pair once every couple of years. The great thing is, these babies never wear out ((a) they’re very durable, and (b) you can get parts replaced) so I’ll probably be wearing them for another 30 years at least. I’ve been wearing the silver ones below for going on 6 years now. I hope these shoes never go out of style because they are the best for my feet.
Shop My Birks
- Birkenstock Arizona in silver
- Birkenstock Arizona in black
- Birkenstock Arizona in copper (looks like rose gold!)
There are so many other cute styles of Birkenstocks besides the Arizona now, too. I love the Arizona because that’s the look I like, but there are plenty of ways to mix it up with Birkenstock. And if you love the Arizonas like me, keep an eye out each spring for new colors and patterns. Check out these Spring 2018 Arizonas in “spectral platinum”!
This is another brand where you might think boots, but several years ago I got a pair of Uggs espadrille wedges at a huge discount and I was amazed at how comfortable they were. The wedges were not super-high: probably only a few inches. What I loved was the fur insoles: they had cushion and comfort, and my feet didn’t slide around at all. As you can see these espadrilles need to be replaced (they’re over 10 years old now!!), but I’m waiting until I can find another pair that’s in my price range. Let me know if you find any at good prices!
Shop My Uggs
These sandals are so old you can’t even get them anymore, but here are a couple of newer ones that are really cute and look comfortable.
I was too young to have worn Kork-Ease sandals when they first hit the scene in the 60s, but I’ve been wearing them for teaching for the past 20 years. They’re not as ergonomic as some of the options above, but they’re very lightweight and give you a little height without all of the change in elevation that can put pressure on your tootsies in many wedges. They’re not the most comfortable sandal on my list here, but they are definitely my go-to when I need a bit of height and don’t want the pain of heels or harsh wedges. And despite the fact that they’re a bit pricey, they do last. I’ve had the cork material Ava platforms you see below for about 10 years, and the black gladiator ones for at least 8 now.
Shop My Kork-Ease Sandals
The black gladiator sandals aren’t available anymore, but the cork ones (called “Ava”) are.
Here are some other cute Kork-Ease sandals available now.
Target? Really? Yes! Now I’m definitely not saying ALL sandals from Target will be comfortable for problem-riddled feet, but I am saying I have found a few pairs of Target sandals over the years that I can wear comfortably to teach and walk all day in. Again, these aren’t going to be as supportive or cushiony as Birks or Uggs, but they are a great budget alternative that you could purchase more frequently as trends come and go if you’re careful to choose options with some of the comfort features listed above. Here are a few that I can wear all day without any trouble.
Shop My Target Sandals (clockwise from far right)
- dv Elaine Espadrille Mule in Brown (Cheetah; also comes in metallic!)
- Gertie Gladiator Sandals in Tan (also available in black)
- Sam & Libby Tassel Sandals, no longer available
- Mossimo Supply Co Lavinia Thong Sandals in Tan (available in 4 colors)
Then here are some other cute Target sandals available now.
Brands I’ve heard are good, but haven’t tried personally:
I first discovered that my feet liked Sorels when I got a pair of Sorel boots (the Sorel Lolla ankle boot) a few years ago and was amazed at how great they felt. You don’t usually think of sandals when you think Sorel, but they have a of cute options and several people I know have told me the sandals are just as comfortable as the boots. I’ve tried several on, but haven’t had it in my budget yet to actually buy any. Sorel sandals will be my next pair when the time comes, though. Here are some I’ve been eyeing.
I have never owned any Vionic shoes, but friends have told me they are the ultimate in comfort sandals that still look cute. They have orthotic footbeds and/or insoles and are often shaped to support arches and heels well. I can’t personally speak to the comfort of these, but I’ve heard great things. Have you owned a pair of Vionics? What did you think?
What are your favorite foot-friendly brands/styles?
I would LOVE to discover new brands of sandals that don’t hurt my feet! Please leave a comment if you’ve had good experiences with particular brands or types of sandals. Always looking for new options!
Next in this series: Tips from a physical therapist on keeping your feet happy
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