Now that summer is upon us, the crunch is on to find supportive sandals that are breathable, slip-on, and provide extra cushioning. Sandals with arch support check all those boxes. We spoke with the experts and rounded up a list of comfortable walking sandals with arch support—that you’ll actually want to wear.
Why do you need arch support?
You might not know it, but what you wear on your feet matters. At Dr. Amy DeGirolamo’s Miami podiatry practice, roughly 75 percent of patients who come in with foot pain just need better shoes. “Sometimes that’s my entire treatment plan,” she says. “Before we get all crazy with medical studies and diagnostic tests, why don’t we try wearing good shoes with arch support and have you come back in a month?”
Physical therapist Dr. Nick Cutri, founder of Los Angeles’ MOTI Physiotherapy, often evaluates shoes for his clients. He tends to get asked some obvious questions, like when can I get back into high heels after an ankle sprain? “The answer is preferably never,” he said.
When it comes to arch support, the question isn’t whether it’s important, but whether it’s important for you, experts say. If you have high arches, you’re going to want more support, Cutri says. But if you have low arches, it’s better not to change the ground beneath too much. The key is flexible support and something that’s shock-absorbing. “Is it going to move with them or is it just going to hold them in an arched position?” Cutri said. “The arch of the foot is meant to be flexible. If we have something that’s too rigid, it prevents that.”
And if you think picking out comfortable sandals is only important for people with heel pain, flat feet, or bunions, think again. Wearing shoes without proper arch support can lead to plantar fasciitis, DeGirolamo says, which can cause stabbing pains in the sole of your foot. It can also set in motion hip and back pain down the line. “The majority of us feel better with arch support,” she said. “Most people, once they’ve tried arch support, they prefer it.”
What to look for in sandals for arch support?
When purchasing shoes, it’s important to consider your feet size and your everyday activities before you buy. If you have wide feet, make sure you pick out a pair that can accommodate wide widths. After all, a foot needs space to “splay,” Cutri said. If you’re walking 10 miles around Europe your feet will require different support than running after your kids at the playground. Either way, Cutri says one thing holds true: flip-flops are not going to provide you with enough support.
You can also examine the sole a little bit closer. When DeGirolamo evaluates shoes with patients, she first grabs the sole and tries to fold it in half. “If you can fold it up or curl it up and bend it in half, it’s technically just covering your foot,” she said. “It’s not supporting it.”
DeGirolamo recommends shoppers look at the American Podiatric Medical Association’s seal of approval program. This is about as close to getting a shoe handpicked by a podiatrist as you can get. If you’re ready to get the footbed support you need for all your summer walks, we sourced expert-recommended sandals from Hoka, Amazon, Keen, and more. You’ll find popular brands like Birkenstock and Crocs, along with a few others.