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Choosing Summer Shoes – Flip Flops and Sandals

Where is the best place to wear sandals or flip flops?
If you can fold your flip flops in half, they may
not be providing enough support...

Flip flops and sandals are incredibly convenient shoes for summer wear. They’re light, low maintenance and generally handle water and beach sand with ease. However, they can also cause blisters and calluses, strain your arches, overwork your tendons and inflict lower back pain. You can avoid those problems, but you have to make appropriate choices. This is how to choose the best fit, and how to match your shoe with your activity. 

Let’s start with the differences between flip flops and sandals. Flip flops have a thong between your toes and typically thin straps that hold the shoe to your foot. Sandals have more straps, usually including one that goes around the ankles or over the top of your foot to hold the shoe in place.

Flip Flops or Sandals

Let the activity and environment you’re walking in help you decide between flip flops and sandals.

On the beach, pool or on a boat, flip flops are easier to slip on and off. If you’re constantly going in and out of the water, flip flops are very convenient.

Additional things you should check for include the ability to float. You don’t want your shoes sinking to the bottom if they fall in the water. Check their traction when wet. Make sure your feet don’t slip around IN the shoe and that the shoe doesn’t slip around ON the ground. The shoe material should also be quick-drying, so it doesn’t mold or start to smell after repeated dunkings.

For longer walks, when doing a little light hiking or climbing, sandals have more straps to hang onto your feet. That grip allows you to have a stronger and longer walking strike. Sandals also usually provide a little more stability with things like increased arch support. That makes them a better choice than flip flops if the terrain is more challenging.

Look for shoes that have an aggressive tread to help maintain traction. You don’t want to be slipping when you’re out in the wilderness. Consider their ability to dry quickly if they get wet. Also check out how strong the straps are, especially for longer hikes.

In a city or urban environment, sandals usually offer more cushioning on the hard pavement. For walking more than a few blocks, sandals won’t cause as much fatigue. They’re also less casual than a flip flop, if you’re going somewhere a little more dressy.

For the best fit, here’s what you should look for.

Check the size. Just like any shoe you buy, they need to fit your feet. That means your toes should not be hanging over the front. Your heel also shouldn’t be poking over the back. Don’t choose a pair that’s too big either, because then your feet will slip around in the shoe causing blisters and a tripping hazard. 

Test the feel of the straps. If they’re too thin, they can cut into your feet. If they’re too thick, they can pinch. Make sure the way they hit your foot is comfortable as you walk around.

Consider the materials they’re made out of. Things like leather and suede can feel nice, but they might not handle getting wet. Plastic and vinyl maybe be waterproof and easy to clean, but they might not be as strong or flexible as you need. Foam is light and waterproof, but sharp surfaces can quickly damage it. Weigh the pros and cons based on your planned uses.

Choose shoes that offer some arch support. Flat sandals or flip flops strain the arch of the foot. If you wear them for extended periods, it can lead to lower back fatigue and pain.

The final test you should give is to try and bend the shoe in half. If you can fold them or twist them like a pretzel, they don’t have enough support to prevent foot fatigue. The only place you want a flip flop or sandal to bend is in the ball of the foot, and then only when you’re walking.

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