As you shop for the right pairs of sandals to last you through the summer and beyond, you may be keeping a close eye on popular styles. Or maybe you’re more so factoring in another important feature: comfort. Luckily, you can find orthopedic sandals that check both boxes (style and practicality). Even sandals that don’t always feature a high heel or awkwardly arranged arch can also make or break it when it comes to what feels right and doesn’t wind up causing you pain.
This is where orthopedic sandals come in handy. These custom-designed shoes offer arch support, cushioning, and other various features that can help to align the foot and ankle in a more neutral position unlike their flat, flimsy and thin counterparts, explains Jackie Sutera, DPM, podiatrist at City Podiatry in Midtown Manhattan and Vionic Innovation Lab Member. Not only are they comfortable, but orthopedic sandals offer stability and support that can keep your feet healthy in the long-term.
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As a foot doctor, Dr. Sutera recommends orthopedic sandals to just about everyone, and advises against thin, flat sandals. However, she points out that people with flat feet, bunions, hammertoes, foot, and heel pain, can especially benefit from opting for orthopedic. “The structure of flat feet is such that the arch tends to flatten too much or overpronate and is usually indicative of the absence of a curve in the arch, especially when standing,” she says. “People who suffer from plantar fasciitis and flat feet should look for supportive features, such as a deep seated heel cup, arch support, a sturdy outsole, and a cushioned insole.”
What to look for in a good orthopedic sandal
When shopping for an orthopedic sandal, here are a few key elements to keep in mind.
The most important, according to Tim Oldani, DPM, podiatrist at Missouri Foot and Ankle in St. Louis, is to look for a sandal with adequate support through the arch, where flat-footed people tend to need it the most. Arch support can help prevent pronation, which can lead to foot pain over time, he notes.
A robust heel
A robust heel counter helps reduce the pressures on the achilles and plantar fascial bands and helps with the stability of the posterior leg, explains Najwa Javed, DPM, podiatrist with Silicon Valley Podiatry Group and founder of E’MAR Italy. “A good heel counter also helps to reduce abnormal rearfoot pronation,” she adds.
Dr. Oldani also recommends looking for a sandal that’s stable and well-secured when walking by adequately strapping to the foot. “This may sound trivial, but the more stable the sandal is when walking, the less motion will occur,” he says. Straps can help secure the foot and bolster stability.
A durable sole
A thicker sole that is slightly higher in the back than the front also has a biomechanical advantage over a flat or platform sandal, according to Dr. Sutera. This will also help provide stability and shock absorption.
The best orthopedic sandals for women
Birkenstock Barbados EVA — $40.00
Built with medical-grade, biomechanical support, Birkenstocks are the original orthopedic shoe, according to Dr. Javed. Its sole is molded using waterproof EVA, which helps provide rigidity to help with push-off and helps lessen the load of the big toe when walking, notes Dr. Oldani. They’re comfortable when worn for hours on end, all while promoting proper foot health and overall wellbeing.
Fit: Regular/wide width, it’s recommended to size up (as these can run on the smaller side)
NAOT Kayla — $140.00
If you’re looking for a sandal that affords you a little heel without leaving you in aching pain immediately after you take them off, consider this pair from NAOT. These sandals received the Seal of Approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) for promoting good foot health and providing the support of an orthopedic sandal with the look of a dress sandal.
“They have the classic Naot cork and latex foot bed that is supportive through the arch and absorbs shock under the ball of the foot,” says Dr. Oldani. “They also have a suede foot bed that conforms to your foot more with each use.” Another great feature that he loves is the deep heel cup, which he says helps provide added stability.
Fit: Narrow to medium, true to size
Chaco Women’s Z Cloud 2 — $69.00
Here’s a pair of sandals that you can basically do anything while wearing—even light exercise, thanks to their excellent shock absorption and support through the arch. Their rubberized insole is a feature that shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it helps maintain stability and promotes proper foot health, notes Dr. Oldani. He’s a big fan of their toe-loop design that keeps them secure to the foot and can allow for all day use. “Chacos also have an extremely durable outer sole that is similar to that found in a tennis shoe,” he adds.
Fit: Adjustable fit (thanks to straps), so good for narrow, medium, and wide feet. True to size.
Skechers Men’s Louden Sandals — $36.00
These are technically men’s sandals, but you’re allowed to wear whatever shoe you want. This “Dad” sandal’s claim to fame is its air-cooled memory foam, which not only keeps your feet from overheating—thanks to an increase in breathability—but also molds to your actual foot shape to promote all-day comfort. The heel is also 1.25″, which is not too high, but not too close to the ground either.
Fit: Adjustable fit (thanks to straps), so good for narrow, medium, and wide feet. True to size (if you normally use women’s sizing, make sure to convert in order to find your true size).
Orthofeet Paloma — $100.00
Dr. Oldani likes to recommend this pair of orthopedic sandals to all his patients, but especially those with a history of flat feet and plantar fasciitis, thanks to their robust heel that helps reduce arch instability. He also appreciates the fact that they come with an orthotic insole, which he says can help limit pronation, or flattening of the arch, with walking. “They also incorporate a mild rocker design into the sole, which helps to lessen strain on joints with walking,” he adds.
Fit: Standard and wide
Vionic Restore Recovery Sandal — $80.00
Just as the name suggests, these are the kind of sandals you want to slide on after a workout to take the edge off, so to speak, off your aching feet. They feature dual-density cushioning, which provides added stability along with their Three-Zone Comfort technology that provides a deep-seated heel cup for maximum stability, arch support and oversized side walls for maximum cushioning.
Dr. Sutera notes that the recovery sandal also includes textured footbeds which provide massaging relief in every step. “These sandals can be worn at home as a slipper to help your feet relax and regenerate so you can continue to be active every day,” she says.
Fit: Medium, some reviewers say it runs large (we recommend ordering two sizes, and returning the one that doesn’t fit)
OOFOS OOlala Women’s Sandal — $70.00
You may have seen people wearing these ever-popular orthopedic sandals (Jennifer Lawrence is a big fan!) and have wondered what they’re all about. Just like the Vionic pair we shared above, these are recovery sandals, which mean they’re designed to take pressure and pain away from your feet. They’re made with the brand’s proprietary OOfoam™ technology, which helps absorb 37 percent more impact than a traditional pair of foam footwear. Their patented footbed also helps provide added stability and arch support.
Fit: Medium, true to size
Cole Haan 4.ZeroGrand All Day Slide Sandals — $30.00
You can’t get a better deal for a designer pair of sandals than this one. Cole Haan’s 4.ZeroGrand All Day Slide Sandals features a lightweight sole that provides ample comfort for all-day wear along with a slotted pattern that works almost like a vent to allow airflow and full range of motion. Just an FYI: These are men’s sandals, so be sure to convert to your size if you normally use women’s shoe sizing.
Fit: Medium, some reviews say it runs large (you can order two sizes and return the one you don’t need)
Ugg Women’s NEUSCH Sandals — $130.00
One look at this pair of sandals and there’s no way you’d think they were orthopedic, let alone comfortable. With their 2.5″ and elegant ankle bow, they’re the perfect pair of shoes to wear to everything from a wedding to Sunday brunch. They’re made with a dual-density EVA midsole and a Raffia-wrapped midsole, which provides ample stability and shock absorption. Their ankle strap also helps secure the foot.
Fit: Medium, true to size
HOKA ORA Recovery Slide — $55.00
Here’s another recovery slide that is definitely worth trying on at the very least. They feature an oversized midsole that offers ample comfort, along with their Meta-Rocker geometry shape that lets your foot slide right in and out while providing full stability during your wear session. It’s received The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Seal of Acceptance, which ensures proper foot health, and are an affordable price to boot!
Colorways: 2 (women’s), 3 (all gender)
Fit: Medium to wide. There is sizing specific to women, men, and all genders, so make sure you check your actual sizing before ordering.
Orthofeet Malibu Two Way Strap — $95.00
This brand of orthopedic shoes naturally has some of the best pairs of orthopedic sandals, and we’d be remiss not to mention this stylish and functional pair. It features Orthofeet’s premium orthotic insoles that have anatomical arch support and even an arch booster to help reduce the discomfort associated with a myriad of foot conditions, including plantar fasciitis. The straps are fully adjustable, so you can fully customize the fit to your liking.
Fit: Standard, wide, extra wide. True to size
Dr. Scholl’s Island Life Sandal — $50.00
We love the look of this sandal, which you can easily dress up or down. They’re designed with comfort and foot health in mind, featuring a lightweight, flexible construction, anatomical cushioning insole, and EVA lining that’s made from recycled plastic bottles. We also really love the hook & loop strap closure, which makes it super easy to get these on or off.
Fit: Medium, true to size
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