A day at the beach -- what could be better? You grab your sunscreen, a towel, a cheesy novel... and flip-flops or slides you can easily kick off the moment your toes hit the sand.
Flip-flops or slides are perfect for walking from the boardwalk to the shore. But many of us choose this footwear on a regular basis, even when pounding the urban pavement or riding a bicycle, all summer long.
Welcome to the other "bad shoes." Most of us think of "bad shoes" as five-inch stilettos that cause the wearer to wobble and totter. But flat sandals without any support to the ankle and foot are "bad" too. Seventy percent of us -- male and female -- overpronate (our feet roll inward) when we walk. Our feet need to be kept in place securely. If they move around too much, we are not able to walk properly and it's only a matter of time before we develop ugly and painful foot conditions such as bunions, hammertoes, tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis.
You may not want to hear this, but it's true. Men and women alike should save flip-flops and slides for the beach and pool... and that's it. For the rest of the warm weather season, choose sandals that keep the feet stable.
So what should you look for?
1. Strappy sandals are stylish and keep your feet in place. Just make sure that the straps are not too loose. If they are, bring your shoes to a repair shop and have the straps adjusted. Better yet, wear sandals with adjustable straps. Your feet should not slide around when you're walking.
2. Increasingly shoe manufacturers are designing fashionable styles with contoured foot beds offering some arch support. When you know you'll be doing a lot of walking, wear this type of sandal.
3. Soles that are pancake-flat can cause feet to roll inward. Choose sandals with a heel between a half-inch to an inch.
4. Open-toe wedges look fantastic with everything from capris to skirts to shorts. Just make sure you don't go above two inches in height; otherwise, you will be forced to walk on the balls of your feet, which is unnatural, uncomfortable, and will cause long-term foot conditions, which are ugly.
5. If you're wearing heels, make sure the front of your foot doesn't slide forward when you walk. There should be cushioning beneath the ball of your foot, because that is the place where you apply the most pressure when you wear high heels. If your heels don't offer cushioning, buy ball-of-foot gel pads at your local drugstore or shoe repair shop. The clear ones are invisible in open shoes.
Sandals are liberating. They emancipate our toes from the tyranny of the closed-toe shoes we're forced to wear in cold weather. But sandals need to keep our feet and ankles properly aligned so that we can walk properly and comfortably. Remember, if you twist an ankle in your flip-flops, you'll be stuck reading that beach novel at home.
Want more shoe-sense? Pick up Tanenbaum's Bad Shoes & The Women Who Love Them.