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Spring into Your (Orthopedic) Sandals!

Spring into Your (Orthopedic) Sandals!

Spring is here in Minnesota (well, it’s supposed to be), or it will be here for good very soon, with hot and humid summer weather quickly to follow. Great, right? No more heavy jackets and boots and layers of clothing. Freedom! Relaxation! Well, the thought of spring and summer doesn’t exactly relax me in some respects. The change of seasons forcing me to wear skimpier clothing and footwear fills me with dread. Why? I’m way chubbier than I want to be, thanks to increased doses of prednisone and lack of exercise from RA pain and winter weather. Dragging out last year’s summer clothes and shopping for new clothes and shoes is a major headache. Especially shoe and sandal shopping. I can work to lose weight again and I can manage some clothing tricks that hide the extra fat, but I can’t change the painful, swollen state of my feet and ankles. And you know what that means–UGLY SUMMER SHOES (and ugly feet)! How depressing. Admittedly, I’m being pretty negative here and probably exaggerating somewhat, but it can’t be denied that finding cute shoes that actually fit RA feet and don’t cause pain is a major challenge.

I’ve joked with RA girlfriends before about how one of us needs to become rich and famous by designing and making attractive footwear for those of us with arthritis who are not senior citizens (seniors should also have access to cute shoes, of course). Maybe I should take on this project myself; I am so sick of not being able to find shoes that don’t make me feel 100 times uglier! My SAS shoes (I got my first pair in my 20s!) feel wonderful but they make me look like a nursing home orderly. Comfort over pain, right? But why can’t we RA ladies (and men) have both? We should be able to have both, I believe. This may sound a bit vain and ridiculous, but I remember one of my first experiences of loss after I was diagnosed with RA at age 18 was having to give up wearing cute shoes. Like most girls, I used to love shoe shopping! Now I hate it. Granted, I have bigger problems to worry about now, but it would still be nice to be able to wear the latest styles, like other young women who are running around in heels and wedge sandals. The hours and energy I waste trying, unsuccessfully, to shop for remotely attractive shoes usually causes so much frustration that I give up and then feel like a frump and a failure with worse self-esteem. Who wants to go through that?

In good news, regarding fall and winter footwear, I have discovered shoes that fit well and look good! And they don’t hurt. Amazing! Actually, they can be worn all year round, if you want, but the style is better suited to colder weather. These miracle shoes are black leather lace-ups made by KEEN. They’re kind of sporty and not exactly feminine, but I think they’re cute and stylish and they look great with jeans and casual pants. I’ve worn them nearly every day this fall and winter and while I’ve been working at my kindergarten teaching job, which caused extra stress on my feet. These shoes have saved me from a lot of pain and they’ve helped to boost my self-esteem a little bit, too. Success!

The bad news that I have yet to find sandals that are supportive and comfortable for walking yet don’t make me want to hide my feet in paper bags. I’ve tried Birkenstocks, Danskos, Easy Spirit, Naturalizer, and I can’t remember what else. My geriatric SAS sandals are the closest I’ve come to finding something that doesn’t hurt too much. Dear SAS, can you PLEASE design a sandal for us under-60s with arthritic feet and ankles? I’m still single here and I’m not going to get a date clomping around in footwear from a nursing catalog.

If I absolutely can’t find somewhat attractive sandals this year, then what are some alternatives to improving my spring and summer foot problems? Try to wear mostly long pants that hide part of my ugly sandals? Wear more interesting and cool shirts or get a really cute haircut to distract from my feet? I feel sort of silly even asking these questions because this is not a HUGE problem or dilemma in my life, of course. I’ve learned to adapt and accept a life of boring, depressing footwear. But it is these little things about living with RA that do affect a person. It’s the losses that add up over time, robbing you of the life you want to have.  And it’s about making decisions. Do you want to look good at the party or do you want to dance at the party? I’d rather dance–even in my SAS shoes.

Disclaimer The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author. or Health Union, LLC. is neither associated nor promotes any of the products mentioned in this article.

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


  • KayCamen
    2 years ago

    Try Merrill sandals. They have good arch support. I add additional support with a fabric-type half-circle arch support that glues in. They’re white and show a little on the inner edge in my black sandals, but personally, I’d rather put up with that over the other options. I also like the Merrill clog-type shoe. My podiatrist prefers the New Balance (for example) stabilizing tennis shoe, but said that with the extra lift with the glue-on support it will keep my feet from self-destructing. I try to be good and only wear them for special occasions or when I won’t be walking or standing for long periods. –Hope this helps somebody else with the ugly shoe problem.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    2 years ago

    Thanks for the sharing this suggetsion KayCamen!! Much appreciated! 🙂 ~Monica ( Team)

  • Doghouse
    2 years ago

    Hi Angela,
    Oh how I can relate to every word you typed and every feeling you expressed about trying to find comfortable, CUTE, (summer) shoes! I would love to be able to wear skirts and dresses in the summer heat but its almost impossible to find any sandals to wear with them. I’m 59 and was diagnosed at age 21…the prime of your shoe shopping life.
    I hate to try to go shoe shopping because I usually end up depressed and without any shoes to fit the bill.
    I very recently bought a couple of pairs of sandals on QVC which are literally hand made in Israel with their own removable footbeds. I received my order a couple of days ago and am delighted with them so far. They are made by the company “NOAT”.
    They are so cute and COMFORTABLE, Its as close as walking barefoot before I developed foot problems. Now this is saying a lot as I’ve had several extensive surgeries on both feet over the years. They come in European sizes which is easy enough to figure out and are a bit pricy but worth every penny in my eyes. I did have to exchange them for one size up as my right foot is significantly larger than my left due to surgeries leaving my left foot a whole size smaller. Once that was done, it opened up my wardrobe and lifted my confidence, making me feel feminine again!
    Everyone’s feet and likes are different but it doesn’t hurt to take a look or give them a try. Good luck to you all in your shoe quest and try to never let it get you down. 🙂

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    2 years ago

    Thanks for the sharing, Doghouse! ~Monica ( Team)

  • MareV
    2 years ago

    The only shoes that feel the least bit comfortable are my Sketcher Memory
    Foam Casual Tie Up Shoes. I try to make sure they have plenty of room for my toes to spread out in the front of the shoe.

  • BBroll
    2 years ago

    You have to try Kuru footwear. It is the only brand I can wear. Cute sandals, casual and dress shoes. You can only buy them online, but the shipping and exchanges are free. My son was am offensive lineman and now has bad feet, and it’s the only brand he wears too. Check them out at

  • ldpnn8
    2 years ago

    Check out SAS again. They have come a long way from the only ugly shoes they used to be. Color, style are all improved. I ❤️my Sorrento sandals!?

  • pattieh
    2 years ago

    The shoe thing is just downright depressing!

  • Disney1962
    2 years ago

    I’ve been using Birkenstock with the double straps, no back strap. When I wear my sneakers I seem to notice more swelling. Birkenstock has a return 100% return policy.
    They have more styles and colors now, more than every before. I’m hopeful these will work out for my feet. Wishing you a good day today and better tomorrow. 🙂

  • Su Regonini
    5 years ago

    Orthoheel (Vionic) sandals and shoes are amazing! You used to only be able to get them from your podiatrist, but now they sell them on QVC, and you can find them at many larger shoe and department stores like Dillards and Peltz Shoes. In Florida, where I wear flip flops about 90% of the time, I only wear Orthoheel–I’ve worn out two pairs over the last 5-6 years, and need a new pair asap! Only thing that helps my achy ankles and they totally cured my plantar fasciitis.

  • Reeta
    5 years ago

    I found this article really cute…you know what! Everything looks good on Smarties..!!:D

  • Lily
    5 years ago

    Even though I love spring and summer I have to admit that I prefer winter because I can hide my weight and my ugly shoes. But I’m getting used to it now. I got arthritis since I was 6 and I was born with talipes equinovarus so it’s a miracle that I can stand up and walk. So, the only shoes that I can wear now are the MBT. After having 3 surgeries and been diagnosed with neurophatic arthritis I don’t care much about shoes. All I want is to enjoy life with my loved ones.

  • Ela
    5 years ago

    Before my feet were swollen beyond any reason I used to really like Clarks, then I discovered that it is a lot better to buy men’s sizes which are much wider and in sandals often look the same. My favorite sandal with great support and adjustable width was ECCO Mens Cruise Sandal – very sporty. Now my feet are swelling so much that I can only wear Crocs, and I find them amazing. Traditional ones don’t offer too much support, but they do have other styles to meet almost any need. I am not sure if they are very stylish, but they are trying. Now I cannot wear anything else. Thank goodness they also have winter models.

  • Christine
    5 years ago

    SAS shoes is the ONLY way to go. You will not regret it and they have some super cute shoes for summer. Wear them everyday. Could not walk otherwise.

  • Merry
    5 years ago

    I feel your pain literally. I have found some comfortable shoes and sandals by Noat. Comfortable sandals by Teva aren’t cute wedges but translate into cute casual sandals that provide support to arches, ankles and sore feet

  • Ann Adema
    5 years ago I had great luck with this company. Most of the shoes take orthotics! Three pairs!

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