The Best (and Worst) Summer Shoes for Healthy Feet, According to a Podiatrist

Photo: Stocksy / Guille Faingold
From flip flops to sneakers, summer footwear (or a lack there of) is definitely comfy, but is it healthy for your feet?

Summer is brutal to your feet, says Jackie Sutera, DPM, a podiatrist at City Podiatry in New York and Vionic Innovation Lab Member. And summer footwear, notoriously less supportive than other seasonal shoes, is especially punishing.

As the weather gets warmer, feet and legs can get swollen, leading to feelings of tightness, discomfort, and pain. Sweat is an issue, too. "Increased sweat can cause irritation and even infection to the skin," Dr. Sutera says. "It can also lead to odor, blisters, and even injury if feet slip around out or within the shoe."

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Still, Dr. Sutera recommends sticking to shoes, especially in places where things can get funky, like pool decks, hotel spas, or terraces. But what are the best summer shoes for healthy feet? Below, Dr. Sutera examines summer footwear, shoe-by-shoe, so you know exactly what to wear.

Keep you feet healthy with a podiatrist's tips for summer shoes

1. Flip flops

I know you probably don't want to hear this, but those worn-out rubber flip flops you've been wearing for the past three summers aren't great for your feet. The flat, thin types are bad for your feet largely because there's not much support and can cause your foot muscles to over-grip while walking, says Dr. Sutera.

This doesn't mean you have to toss 'em just yet... instead, use them for brief stints, like walking around the pool or across hot sand on the beach. "I suggest very limited use, if at all, of these flimsy types," says Dr. Sutera. "Opt for more supportive types for longer periods of walking and standing that have arch support, thicker soles, and that are cushioned." Her top picks include the Vionic Beach Noosa Sandal ($40), which have a lil' extra squish, or the Tide II Sandal ($70), which offer some serious arch support.

2. Sandals

My chic gladiator sandals can't be bad for my feet, right?! Like the flip flops, it depends. Traditionally, strappy sandals and slides are very flat, which isn't good for impact and arch support. However, Dr. Sutera says that the straps can actually hold your foot in place, which can be a good thing. If the straps are adjustable? Even better. "Adjustable straps can help to accommodate for hammer toes, bunions, wide feet, etcetera," she says. "Look for versions that may have a thicker sole and arch support."

3. Wedges

Summer is the season of outdoor events, which means it's time to break out the wedges. If you're looking for a shoe can withstand hours of walking and/or dancing, opt for a lower heel. "The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends sticking to heels and wedges that are 2 inches or lower," says Dr. Sutera. "The higher the heel, the more pressure is put on the ball of the foot and body weight is unevenly and abnormally distributed." She also suggests looking for wedges with a flexible forefront. This will allow your foot to move a bit more naturally to avoid discomfort or injury.

4. Sneakers or closed-toe shoes

If you're hitting the gym or heading out for a hike, you're going to want to something with more protection. However, swamp toes are are real thing. If you're prone to sweating, it's best to pick sneakers, hiking boots, and other closed-toe shoes that are made with leather or mesh fabrics that allow the feet to breathe. If you're planning on really breaking a sweat, it might be worth investing in multiple pairs of shoes. Dr. Sutera says it's a good idea to avoid wearing the same shoes consecutively, allowing them to fully dry out between each wear. Noted.

5. Bare feet

If you're like me, summer means more time spent without any shoes at all. But, as Dr. Sutera previously told Well+Good, walking around barefoot throughout the summer isn't the best thing for healthy feet. Shoes help our feet and bodies with everything from balance and weight distribution to posture and protection from germs.

If you're set on going shoeless, treat your feet to surfaces that are softer and more forgiving. "It’ll have less of an impact if you’re on carpet or if the floor has some kind of give to it, like a cork floor or gel mat,” Dr. Sutera said previously. Guess that's you're excuse to dip your toes in some cool sand at the beach...

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