A Pleasant Sandal Surprise

A Pleasant Sandal Surprise

Summer is coming, and with it comes sandal season. While some people may enjoy making purchases for the changing weather and styles, the difficulty in finding shoes when contending with rheumatoid arthritis/rheumatoid disease (RA/RD) sucks the fun right out of shopping. It seems that sandals should be the perfect footwear for a person with painful, inflamed joints, as there’s less surface area pressing against swollen toes and feet. Unfortunately, comfortable, flattering sandals have proven nearly as elusive as winter shoes. Most summer styles offer little support and/or high heels or wedges, making them too painful for a gal with RA/RD.

Each year I find myself on a sandal safari, hunting down the rare cute, painfree shoe. I spend hours searching comfort brands online, then order numerous pairs in a variety of combinations of half sizes and wide widths, and still I usually come up short. More often than not, I end up returning the giant package of every pair of shoes from my order.

However, this year I lucked out on an unexpected footwear feature that actually brought me shoe shopping success: velcro.

When I think of velcro and shoes, I immediately think of the footwear donning my 5 year old’s feet. Nothing about the word “velcro” conjures cute, feminine footwear. Yet, some clever designers have looked past toddlers in designing shoes with this wonder closure.

I ordered several pairs of sandals from Earth Shoes, as this is a brand that I have better luck with than others (although it’s still far from a sure thing). From the online photos of the sandals I selected, I was none the wiser that they had velcro closures. When my shoes arrived, I was surprised to discover that beneath the leather was a layer of velcro. Therefore, my shoes don’t look anything like my son’s velcro tennis shoes, but they share some of the same benefits.

The velcro allows me to adjust the shoes perfectly, so that the straps are not too tight on my swollen toe joints but are snug enough to provide support to the rest of my body. While I mastered the skill of shoe-tying years ago, it’s also handy for my swollen fingers to not have to maneuver buckles.

I’m glad some shoe designers had the creativity to think outside the toddler shoebox and apply an invention that’s been around for decades to women’s footwear. Too often women’s fashion is focused on form over function, and I hope that more designers and companies realize that many women like myself don’t want to have to choose between comfort and style. In using velcro on dressy sandals, this company was able to sell me shoes that I didn’t end up returning and that actually feel good to wear throughout the day.

Living with chronic, painful illness, one learns not to take things for granted. Being able to walk with minimal pain, participating in activities I enjoy, or being able to sleep without tossing and turning in discomfort all night are all victories, as is finding a pair of cute, comfortable shoes. RA/RD makes life difficult in countless major and minor ways, so finding a new fashion feature that enables me to successfully buy shoes is something to celebrate.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (30)
  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    7 months ago

    Alegria is a brand you should check out! They have Velcro closures on most of their sandals, that are cleverly hidden. They also have replaceable foot beds made of memory foam, cork and latex. They are almost the only shoe I wear, and they are so cute! I order them online since I have a large foot.
    Happy shopping!
    MS

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    7 months ago

    Thanks so much for the recommendation – I will definitely check out that brand! All the best, Tamara

  • JeanneuprrDestiny
    9 months ago

    What company can I shop at for comfort able sandals that cover my twisted feet Before Foot Surgery have to get Hip Replacement Hand as well getting therapy am 59 had RA since 2004. Is Zappos best or who to order from ? Thank you. jeanneuprr@gmail.com..

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hi JeanneuprrDestiny, I wish you all the best with your upcoming surgery! I have found that Zappos has a huge selection, and I have definitely used their free shipping for returns many, many times when shoes don’t end up meeting my RA needs when I try them on. There are many online shoe shopping options these days, but personally Zappos is the one I’ve used most. All the best, Tamara

  • JJ
    9 months ago

    I have had severe rheumatoid arthritis for 35 years and have had 25 surgeries. I have a left foot and ankle fused in two separate surgeries & a rt. Foot In the need of the same surgery due to multiple hairline fractures at present. The ankle is giving out.The only sandal I have been able to wear and wear well are Fit Flops.Costly yes but oh my goodness they are wonderful. I hope this helps as I have many pairs and wish I could wear them in the winter!
    Joanne

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hi Joanne, Thanks so much for sharing this recommenadation and a little bit about your experience with RA! All the best, Tamara

  • farmchick
    9 months ago

    Oh, I forgot to add that right now my most comfortable pair of sandals are Crocs – they have a thong but are not flip-flops but the thong continues to loop around the ankle. Right now my toes don’t look so bad so I don’t mind that they’re totally bare and I have had lots of compliments on the shoes. Besides, they were quite reasonably priced.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey farmchick, Thanks for the recommendation! Best, Tamara

  • farmchick
    9 months ago

    I have some cute Teva sandals which I had put away some time ago. I was thrilled to find them because it was like a new pair of shoes. Sad to say, I wore them for a busy afternoon and was miserable. The inside of the entire shoe is elastic material and it and the heavy stitching were incredibly uncomfortable. So much for my new pair of shoes!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey farmchick, Thanks for sharing! I can definitely relate to the disappointment of thinking something will work with my RA only to find my symptoms flared. Bummer! Gentle hugs, Tamara

  • KarenG.
    9 months ago

    Comfortable Shoes??? I haven’t worn sandals in years…. Now that I wear compression socks, wearing sandals is not an option. Unless there are “footless” compression socks….

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey KarenG, Inflammation is quite the beast, isn’t it? I’m sorry you’re contending with it, and I appreciate you sharing. Gentle hugs, Tamara

  • Nitrobunny
    9 months ago

    Finding cute shoes that don’t hurt and allow for the swelling that regularly occurs feels a bit like winning the lottery. I know many of us still have that pair of adorable sandals that we know we’ll never wear again, still lingering in our closets because we just don’t want to get rid of them.

    I have several pairs of Fit Flops that provide excellent arch support and are made in a variety of materials, some of which are super comfy for those of us with RA/RD. I also have a few pairs of higher end platform sandals that are both supportive and comfortable while giving me the little bit of height I used to get from the shoes I used to be able to wear. I also am a Birkie girl with several Arizonas in different colors. Pain may not be an option for all of us but hopefully we can all have at least a few options when it comes to footwear

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey Nitrobunny, Thanks so much for these recommendations, as well as for mentioning that pair of shoes in so many of our closets that we can’t bear to get rid of (I definitely have mine and completely relate!). Thanks for being in our community, Tamara

  • rockcandi
    9 months ago

    That truly is something to celebrate. People don’t think about just how much has to change in a persons life when they have RD. Shoes were a big deal to me in my 20s when I could no longer stand the pain of wearing my beloved wedges. They were my signature shoe as I’m terribly short and have (had) muscular legs that looked great in wedges. But when I developed plantar fasciitis the doctor told me I could only wear sneakers for the rest of my life. Now with my RD being so severe I’d never think about wearing wedges! Haven’t worn them for years. Now I have all kinds of good ideas for comfy cute sandals thanks to your article and all the great comments! Thank you all!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey rockcandi, It’s so true that it’s impossible for someone to imagine all the “little things” about living with RA that end up having a major impact on our lives, and shoes are a huge one! As you mentioned the loss of shoe options and your signature footwear style, I thought you might be able to relate to this article, “Ghosts of Shoes Past”: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/ghosts-shoes-past/. Thanks for sharing with us! All the best, Tamara

  • 1301rsl
    9 months ago

    I wear Mephisto’s and it is the only shoe/Sandle I will wear. I can be out walking and I can walk all day with the lace ups or sandles.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hi 1301rsl, Thanks so much for the tip! All the best, Tamara

  • MegOMahony
    9 months ago

    Chaco is making some sandles that look dressier. They are comfy with support and look really nice. I bought the “Loveland” style & am really happy with them. Their sandles tend to be just 1 strap that self-adjusts. I’ve had a pair of their traditional sport “Z” sandals for 15+ years now; they’ve hiked/walked over 350 km with me and are still great.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey MegOMahony, Thank you for sharing this recommendation and the tip that Chaco is expanding their styles. All the best, Tamara

  • robinjane
    9 months ago

    I just got a pair of Alegria sandals—wide toe box, Velcro straps across my toes, at the arch and around the back. Also, like my Alegria clogs, I can replace their insole with my custom orthotic. I might get another pair in a different color!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hi Robinjane, Thanks for sharing this recommendation! All the best, Tamara

  • lesaneedscoffee
    9 months ago

    Last year I found a pair of Olukai sandals at a surf shop by the beach. They have an arch (for those that suffer (Plantar fasciitis). I have since bought three pairs, two flip flops and a slight wedge. Happy summer feet. Happy hunting to you all.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hi Lesa, Thanks so much for the recommendation! All the best, Tamara

  • sarab92
    9 months ago

    I recently found myself in need of a whole new sandal wardrobe for the summer. I was just diagnosed with RA in March of this year and my symptoms didn’t appear until fall of 2017 so I’ve just discovered how unbearably painful my old sandals from last summer truly are. Its weird to all of the sudden not be able to wear sandals that I had just been wearing all last summer. I’ve had the best luck with Birkenstock’s Arizona two strap sandal. Thankfully my discomfort and inflammation stays in my toes as far as my foot is concerned and only occurs on “bad days” thanks to my medication and supplement routine. I definitely got the feels while reading this article! I feel your pain (and also seriously hate tying shoes these days).

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey sarab92, Thanks for sharing your experience and your recommendation! It is a major shift to the “new normal” of life with RA. The first year post-diagnosis can be challenging with all the emotions that come with the medical information, so please know that we are here any time you have questions, concerns, or experiences you want to share. I’m glad you found our site and that you found this article validating. I wish you didn’t have to be in our “RA club,” but I’m glad you’re in our online community. Wishing you all the best, Tamara

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    9 months ago

    Sheryl says I have to stop trying on her sandals each summer. But I swear if i just stretch them enough,,, I will surely get some of those out of our closet so I have a place to put my own shoes. Oops, now the whole truth is out.

    Shh don’t tell Sheyrl.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hi Rick – Thanks for sharing (and we won’t tell ). Here’s hoping you find some comfy shoes for yourself! All the best, Tamara

  • Purpleteresa
    9 months ago

    I love my Vionic orthotic shoes from QVC or Dillard’s. Especially my flip flops. I wear them All the time. I can walk 4 miles in them and my feet and back don’t hurt. I wore them all day at Disney. They don’t wear out for yrs either.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey Purpleteresa, Thanks so much for sharing this recommendation! A four-mile walk or a day at Disney without foot pain is quite a feet . . . I mean feat. 🙂 So glad you’ve found shoes that work, and I appreciate you sharing this with the rest of us. All the best, Tamara

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