A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Summer footwear: How to choose the right shoe

A person wearing summer shoes: striped sandals.

When it comes to picking out shoes to wear in the summer months, the best option is to wear something that feels comfortable.

It’s that time of year where we can happily shed layers and slip into our favorite summer shoes – or even go without any. But are your summer shoe choices harming your feet? How can you be sure that the shoes you choose to wear hiking, biking or even just out to lunch with friends are the right choice?

Comfort is everything

When it comes to picking out shoes to wear in the summer months, the best option is to wear something that feels comfortable. “Wear something that is well-fitting, comfortable and suitable for the activity you will be doing,” said Dr. Marilyn Pontone, podiatrist at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “Never buy a shoe that is recommended but uncomfortable.” Because every person is different, shoes that are recommended to one person may not be right for everyone. So focus on comfort when picking out what shoes to wear.

Additionally, though summer is the time that many of us want to shed shoes altogether, Dr. Pontone warns against doing so. “The worst shoes you can wear is going barefoot in settings where you should not be,” she explained. Wearing shoes is very important for maintaining foot health.

The second worst shoe to wear is one that doesn’t fit. So make sure that on top of choosing comfortable shoes, you are finding pairs that fit well and are not too tight or loose. The best way to do this is to try shoes on before you buy them. Buy shoes in person or purchase from online stores that offer a generous return policy to make sure that you are getting shoes that will fit and last.

What to look for in summer shoes

When choosing shoes to wear for your summer activities, be sure to keep in mind what you will be doing and make choices accordingly.

Running shoes should be light and replaced frequently. Hiking shoes should also be light and frequently replaced, but they should also have breathability and be waterproof.

When choosing sandals, avoid ones with straps that cross boney prominences, as these can cause discomfort with prolonged wear. For hiking and long-wear sandals, find a pair that is made of a waterproof material that won’t shrink if they get wet.

For all your summer shoes, try to stay away from heavy materials like leather. While they are durable, thick or heavy materials become hot and uncomfortable in the summer heat. Instead, stick to light, breathable materials and consider waterproof ones for outdoor activities.

Wear the shoes you love AND take care of your feet

So what if your favorite summer shoes don’t meet the criteria above? Don’t throw them away. Dr. Pontone said, “Hopefully you love a shoe that fits well and is not difficult to walk around in. But it is important to recognize the limitations of any shoe.” For example, you should not wear flip flops to ride a bike or wear high heels if you are going to be walking around for long periods of time.

But this does not mean that you cannot wear the shoes you love. Flip flops and sandals are not great for standing around or walking for long periods of time, but they are better than going around barefoot. If this is a shoe of choice for you, find flip flops or sandals with a molded insole to support the foot, and only wear them for short periods of time. Though, Dr. Pontone warned people with diabetes and neuropathy away from ever wearing sandals or flip flops. Instead, she encouraged shoes that provide more support.

The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing summer shoes is that you don’t overdo your activity and hurt yourself. Acknowledge the limitations of the shoes you are wearing and choose options that are appropriate for your plans. Every person is different, so listen to your feet and wear what is comfortable.

If you have concerns about your feet or want to discuss your shoe choices, reach out to your doctor or connect with a podiatrist.

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