Best summer sandals for foot health: A podiatrist’s guide

summer sandals and flip flops

When it comes to footwear, summer calls for slip-on convenience, but not all sandals give the proper support our feet need. And mechanical troubles like tendonitis, plantar fasciitis , back pain and hip/knee inflammation aren’t convenient. So, what should your piggies wear to market? We recently kicked back with Roper St. Francis Healthcare podiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Armstrong  to determine which summer sandal stands out above the rest, fashion notwithstanding. Here’s what happened when we put flip-flops, waterproof clogs, sport sandals and slides toe to toe in our quest to find the best summer sandals for foot health:  


This flimsy footwear offers little stability or foot protection (the woes of a blown-out flip-flop have even been recorded in song). “They’re just not supportive,” says Dr. Armstrong. “Flip-flops cause a lot of stress and strain to our tissue that results in inflammation and pain in the feet.” The thin straps don’t securely hold the shoes in place, so your tootsies have to compensate to keep the shoe moving with you (hello, hammer toe!). Opt for this type of footwear for too long, and the increased pressure may irritate the plantar fascia ligament on the bottom of the foot. “Rubber flip-flop soles can also harbor lots of bacteria that lead to recurring skin infections,” adds the podiatrist. And these open shoes make our feet prone to cuts and scrapes. While more expensive flip-flops with greater arch support are available, if you plan to sport your sandals all day, every day, it’s best to choose a sturdier model. Reserve the flip-flops for trips to the pool or beach.  

Waterproof Clogs

Perforated waterproof clogs hit the ground running in the early 2000s thanks to their cushy, lightweight foam resin construction and roomy toe box. But the wide shoes don’t offer adequate arch or ankle support and require the same excess toe grip as flip-flops. “I tell people to get out of these clogs if they have any type of fasciitis or tendonitis, because they’re just not providing enough support. You need to take stress off the tissue, and these shoes don’t,” says Dr. Armstrong. The loose fit that makes the option so comfortable also puts wearers at risk of falling and allows feet to repeatedly slide forward, causing toenail trauma. And if you’ve ever smelled an old pair, you’ll understand that the nonporous material keeps sweaty feet stewing, leading to infections like nail fungus and athlete’s foot.  

Sport Sandals

In order to provide proper support and evenly distribute weight, a shoe’s footbed should follow the natural contours of your foot. A sport sandal that offers sculpted heel cups and a substantial midfoot provides better stability and shock absorption than flip-flops or clogs. Any pair with adjustable heel straps will also help align the ankle. “For hiking or outdoor activities, choose a pair that offers good arch support,” advises Dr. Armstrong. Still, you’ll need to give your sport sandals a regular cleaning with baking soda and water to eliminate any bacteria, fungus and odor growing on the rubber soles.  

Cork Slides

While cork-bed sandals may rise and fall in pedal popularity polls, the original German-manufactured slides have enjoyed a nearly 250-year-long stride thanks to their sturdy construction and orthotic support. “This type of shoe has a decent arch and a relatively firm sole, so it provides stability, protection and support,” explains Dr. Armstrong. The contoured footbed conforms to the shape of the wearer’s foot, which controls pronation (the rolling inward of the foot), reduces slippage and eliminates the need for a curled-toe grip. The cork sole also gives these functional slides a leg up, as it absorbs more moisture than rubber-bottomed sandals and helps wick sweat away from the skin.  

So which summer sandal finishes first? While sport sandals toe the line, the cork slide has a firm footing with our podiatric expert when it comes to being the best summer sandals for foot health.   If you have foot pain of any kind, it’s time to consult with a specialist. Our team of board-certified podiatrists are here to help you find the best solution for your foot health. Appointments are available, often with same-day or next-day availability. Schedule your appointment today and step into comfort and relief.