Flip-flops, sandals and wedges are some of the most popular summer footwear because they are breezy, easy to put on and casual. However, they are some of the most harmful shoes because they lack support, forcing feet into unusual positions.
“A lot of times, flip-flops don’t provide any kind of stability or support,” said Dr. Jeane Watson of Gainesville Podiatry Clinic. “When you wear them for long periods of time, they can lead to foot pain or calluses and other problems.”
Watson explained shoes of all varieties should offer support to certain areas of the foot to prevent issues with the feet. No matter the season, wearing the wrong shoes can have lasting effects.
“One of the biggest problems I see is people wearing the wrong size shoes,” Watson said. “We get it in our head that we are a certain number and we just go for that size, but all shoes have different shapes, and some are made smaller than others.”
Watson mentioned shoes should not fit close to the toe because it can cause toenail problems, blisters or hammertoes, especially with certain styles of shoes.
“Heels are bad because they can cause hammertoes, where the toes begin to curl under,” Watson said. “They put a lot of weight on one small area, and they can shorten the tendons in the foot and the calf muscles, making tendonitis more common.”
When heels have an unnatural shape, such as a pointed toe, they put the toes in an abnormal position, causing bunions and nerve damage. Long-term heel wear, even in heeled sandals, can lead to knee, ankle and back problems as well.
“The weight is not distributed correctly, so it puts more pressure on other joints of the body,”
However, wearing the correct size heel can correct some of these problems, along with choosing a heel with a larger or open toe box for toes to move around.
Open-toe boxes are one of the benefits of sandals.
“The foot should not slide forward in the heel, and the toes should have wiggle room,” Watson said. “Heels with a square or round toe box usually have more room, along with open-toed shoes.”
Watson said changing into heels of a different height and shape throughout the day can manage some pain by redistributing weight and putting pressure in different places. She suggests always keeping a backup pair of shoes in a purse or locker at work.
However, workers such as doctors, nurses, retail associates, restaurant workers and others who are on their feet a good portion of the day should look for certain characteristics in shoes, dressy or industrial, to keep their feet as comfortable as possible.
“You need something with a good arch support and a footbed that has support for the right areas of the foot,” Watson said. “A flat footbed can lead to pain or calluses because there is no cushion or support.”
Watson explained many companies make supportive sandals with an arch support, a molded footbed and customizable pressure points to make the sandal mold to the wearer. However, for shoes not made to support the foot, Watson recommends a custom orthotic insert.
“A good insole or orthotic can make heels, flats, dress shoes and others more supportive and less harmful to feet,” Watson said. “They have the arch support and the contour designed to support all ranges of feet.”
Ryan Kyranakis, owner of Runners Fit in Flowery Branch, said a customized fit is ideal for comfort and protection.
“Identifying the foot type is really important to fitting a good running shoe,” he said. “People are one of three types: neutral, over-pronated or under-pronated. We watch them walk to see which type they are and go from there.
The staff at Runners Fit is trained to find the right kind of athletic shoe for each person’s needs. The company outfits all cross country and track teams in the county and city schools, along with avid runners and workers who spend excessive time on their feet.
“It’s really important that someone who is on their feet all day be in the right kind of shoe because if they are over-pronated and in a neutral or under-pronated shoe, it can force the ankle into an unnatural position and cause problems in the ankle, hip and knee,” Kyranakis said. “The same goes for those who are neutral or under-pronated.”
Runners Fit offers athletic shoes with extra support on the inside or outside based on the person’s foot type, along with a variety of shoes for people with neutral feet. Kyranakis mentioned being in the right running shoe, even for those who are not runners, can ease foot pain and support the body’s posture.
“We get a lot of doctors, nurses, teachers and other people who spend all day on their feet, and we can provide the right shoe that is going to support them throughout the day,” Kyranakis said.