This Travel Pro’s Trick Can Relieve Tired, Achy Feet After Standing All Day—And It’s Podiatrist-Approved

Photo: Getty Images/Crispin la valiente
As host of her own travel show on PBS, Samantha Brown spends a lot of time on her feet. So when her dogs are barking, she relies on a trick she learned years ago while working grueling double shifts as a restaurant server in New York City: Whenever she had a short break, she’d switch into flip flops to give her toes some fresh air and space to spread out. Then, Brown would sprinkle on powder to absorb moisture and odor. When it was time to get back to work, she’d change into a fresh pair of socks before once again slipping on her work shoes.
@samanthabrowntravels I never walk around in flip flops, but they’re easy to stash in a bag and take with you anywhere. #travel #traveltips #feet #feetcare #feetcarearoutine #themeparks #cruisetips ♬ original sound - Samantha Brown

Experts In This Article

Turns out, Brown’s strategies aren’t just travel-tested—they’re also (mostly) expert-approved. Well+Good asked DC-based podiatrist Saylee Tulpule, DPM, to weigh in on the flip-flop hack. And while she was at it, Dr. Tulpule also shared a couple other pro tips for reviving exhausted feet.

Why flip flops can help

Though most podiatrists don’t typically recommend relying on flip flops for everyday wear, there are instances in which they're useful, and this particular approach gets a thumb’s up from Dr. Tulpule. “When you are standing on your feet for long periods of time, your feet end up developing muscle cramps and sweat,” she says. “It’s a good idea to have a pair of supportive flip flops, to let your toes splay out and air out a little bit.”

Keep in mind that not all flip flops are supportive flip flops. “More supportive flip flops are going to have a moderate degree of midfoot support, a decent arch, and possibly a deep heel cup,” says Dr. Tulpule. To try Brown’s hack at home, Dr. Tulpule suggests opting for flops made from a comfortable material called EVA foam.

Birkenstock Thong Sandal - Gizeh EVA — $50.00

“These are modeled on the cork sandal and their footbed will offer the same comfort and arch support you would expect from Birkenstock,” podiatrist Miguel Cunha, DPM, previously told Well+Good about why these sandals are a solid supportive flip flop option. “These flip flops are also ultra-lightweight, highly flexible, shock-absorbent, waterproof, and skin-friendly.”

A podiatrist’s take on foot powder

“I’m not a huge fan of powder for sweaty feet,” says Dr. Tulpule. “If you have hyperhidrosis (excessive sweat), that powder is going to get a little bit… gunky, for lack of a better word.” Dr. Tulpule also points out that an overreliance on powder can keep you from seeking out the necessary diagnosis and treatment for chronic conditions like athlete’s foot.

According to Dr. Tulpule, an over-the-counter topical spray is a more effective option. (A podiatrist can prescribe something stronger for severe cases.) Using an antibacterial spray directly on your shoes can also help fend off stinky situations by killing bacteria and fungus spores.

Try range-of-motion exercises

If you’ve got sore tootsies after a long day on your feet, moving them around in new ways can often help them feel better. “Our feet support our body weight,” Dr. Tulpule explains, “so standing for an extended period of time is going to cause some general foot aches, stiffness, tightness, and cramps. A lot of my patients tell me that, especially after a long shift, they feel like they need to massage their arches or uncramp their toes.”

Dr. Tulpule suggests putting any downtime to use with simple range-of-motion exercises like manipulating your arch with your fingers and “drawing the alphabet” with your feet. You could also alternate between curling and flexing your toes, 10 seconds at a time, for up to 20 reps. These exercises can bring blood flow to the area, and ease muscle tension.

Don’t forget supportive footwear the bulk of your day

All the flip-flop breaks in the world can’t make up for self-sabotaging footwear choices during the rest of your day. “This is a really good temporary way to get through your day,” notes Dr. Tulpule, “but it’s not going to solve anything.”

Particularly if you suffer from underlying podiatric issues (like plantar fasciitis, flat feet, or bunions), shoes that match your lifestyle can make all the difference when it comes to foot comfort—and health. If you suspect that your shoe closet might be in need of an update, be sure to check out our roundup of the best sneakers for foot pain. And, if you're concerned you have a more serious foot issue to address, consider making an appointment with a podiatrist.

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