The Dark Side of Your Favorite Summer Shoes

flip flops on the sand

Summer is just around the corner. For most of us, that means tossing our heavy boots aside for our fun summer sandals and bright slip-ons. However, many people are unaware of the perils associated with our favorite summer footwear. As a woman, I know it’s hard to resist a “cute” shoe. But, as a podiatrist, I frequently see that these shoes can be extremely unsupportive, eventually leading to problems such as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, or other painful conditions.

Plantar fasciitis may result from overuse of the connective tissue band known as the plantar fascia on the bottom of the foot. When this band is unsupported or overused, it can become inflamed and painful. Therefore understanding and choosing the right shoe can be important in preventative care.

Flip Flop: Of course, this is our favorite and most common shoe worn around the pool and on the beach. Unfortunately, the average flip flop offers very little to no support. They are usually extremely flat, with nothing securing the front or the back of the foot. This puts a lot of stress on the musculature of the foot and heel. Some of the newer versions of the classic flip flop offer some support which may provide some benefit for short-term wear on the beach and poolside.

Ballet Flats: There may be more support on the front and back end of the shoe, but as the name implies, they are flat with minimal cushioning or protection between your foot and the ground. There is a force known as a “ground reaction force” that occurs when your foot hits the ground during walking or (gait cycle). Without proper support or cushioning, this force may cause tension on the bottom of the foot, ultimately leading to inflammation and tightness of the fascia – a real pain! Minimize walking in ballet slippers to short distances, and look for those that offer rubber soles and cushioning, if possible.

Summer Sandal: These can vary a great deal. They can range from extremely flat to high heels, which may lead to other foot conditions. Sandal straps can also cause pain especially if they are impinging on certain areas of the foot. The best sandal is made from soft material, has a soft sole, deep heel cup, arch support, and in some cases, a small wedge heel.

Sneakers: Surprise, surprise! Sneakers offer the best support from this list, but not all sneakers are the same. Patients already diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, may also benefit from a custom molded orthotic to be placed into the shoe or sneaker, not visible for anyone to see. This provides support of the arch and allows the patient to walk in a more neutral position rather than rolling on the inside or outside of the foot.

Conditions such as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, and bunions can all be exacerbated with certain summer footwear. With all the trendy and sexy shoes on the market, it is easy to be tempted to purchase those that may cause harm. On the flip side, with a bit of awareness, you can make foot-savvy decisions,   keeping your feet happy and healthy for the long term.

The content provided on this blog by Dr. Pruthi is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.