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Springtime Sandal Shopping

Springtime Sandal Shopping

As the weather heats up, I’m once again facing the challenge of shoe shopping. While buying shoes is a favorite activity for many women, those of us with rheumatoid arthritis often find this to be a daunting task, as finding footwear options that are comfortable on our foot joints, supportive of the rest of our body, and at least somewhat attractive are few and far between. I found a great pair of Earth shoes for fall/winter that is so comfortable I purchased a second pair in order to have them in both brown and black. However, while they are attractive enough with pants, they would look horrible with dresses or shorts. With this season change, I’ve realized how worn out the few comfortable pairs of sandals I own are. Therefore, I’ve headed to my computer for another intense session of shoe buying.

What makes sandals RA-friendly?

As I search for sandals, there are so many factors to consider. They need to be wide enough to avoid putting pressure on tender, swollen toe and foot joints, but close-fitting enough to prevent the foot from sliding within the shoe. Flip-flops are the epitome of foot comfort for many people, but not for me. While I do own some pairs that I use for walking out in the yard or running a quick errand in, if I wear flip flops for more than a couple of hours I start to feel an increase of pain in my toes and ankles, as my joints have to work to keep these open air shoes on. Even with sandals that provide more support than flip-flops, the absence of a heel strap can put additional strain on my feet. While there are many adorable sandals with heels that I long for, I don’t even consider buying them because wearing shoes with anything but a very low heel quickly inflames my toes, knees and hips.

Some RA-friendly sandal options

Fortunately, I live in the age of online shopping, which provides infinitely more options than any shoe store. Over time, I’ve learned to shop only at companies that have excellent search features as well as free shipping both ways. The ability to narrow my search with selections such as low- or no-heel, “comfort,” “active,” and “sling back” is extremely helpful. While an online shoe company may offer thousands of adorable sandals, the majority of them wouldn’t feel good to walk around the room in, much less wear all day. By entering search terms I am able to decimate the options, making for a reasonable browsing session. While this may get me down to a thousand pairs, there’s still much culling to do to find prospective purchases. There are many sandals designed for people with foot problems or for outdoor activities, but these are often bulky and either not attractive with sundresses and skirts or just not attractive at all. I have RA, but I still have a sense of style, and my ego protests when I look at some of the shoes that would likely be comfortable. Therefore, finding a pair of comfortable and at least moderately cute shoes is my personal holy grail. That’s where the importance of the “free shipping both ways” feature comes in. I can order a dozen (or more!) pairs of shoes at a time, and return all the ones that aren’t comfortable or that are uglier out of the box than they were on the computer screen. Coming from a family of environmentalists, some of my relatives might disapprove of the fuel wasted on shipping huge orders of shoes to and from my residence. However, I admit that finding shoes that don’t increase the daily pain I experience outweighs my ecological concerns.

This season, I’ve been happy to find some options that include adjustable straps or elastic. Such features not only enable me to adjust the shoes to provide the most support, but also allow for some give when my toes or ankles are swollen. While I have yet to find my “BFF” shoe company, a few brands that are at least RA-friendly include Softwalk, Naot, Born, Clarks, Ecco, Keen, and Merrill. I used to own many pairs of Earth shoes, as the negative heel took a lot of pressure off my painful toe joints; however, it seems the company no longer makes many negative-heel options. I’m hoping that the giant online order of sandals I just placed will lead to at least a pair or two of keepers. Being able to wear cute shoes that are comfortable for my joints as well as for the rising temperatures helps me feel as footloose and fancy free as a gal with RA can be.

Have you found RA-friendly shoes? What are your favorite brands or preferred shoe features?

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

  • flutterby51
    3 years ago

    my favorite sandals are skechers reggae rasta. i can wear them all day long with no problem and i even wear them for my walk on the treadmill. i’ll have to find something for cold weather.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks so much for the recommendation, and good luck in your search for a good cold weather shoe!

  • kbart
    3 years ago

    I found that Merells and New Balance are the best for me.
    New Balance came out with a flip flop that is formed like a foot (high arch). They are great for me. New Balance has a new sneaker that has a lot of cushioning to them which I need, they are the most comfortable sneaker I have ever worn.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing these recommendations!

  • TiredMama
    3 years ago

    Crocs!!!
    The ONLY shoes I can wear days in a row and not have foot pain. Any other shoes I have to rotate a lot. Otherwise, the ball of my foot or the toe joints hurt terrible if I walk at all.

  • Jillian S moderator
    3 years ago

    TiredMama,
    Thank you so much for sharing your RA friendly shoes with us!
    Which style crocs do you wear? I have the old clog ones haha but I know now they have ones that look like ballet flats and other cute looks.
    I also thought you might enjoy reading through some community tips on RA friendly clothing.
    There is a section for feet 🙂
    Best,
    Jillian (Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team)

  • seroinflammatory
    3 years ago

    Try Keen’s, have found that I can even wear them in the winter with a pair of socks, also accommodate heel orthotic cushions. Search for the Keens with the full heel, variety of colors, light weight and adjustable fit.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for the recommendation!

  • wildaboutvi
    3 years ago

    Love Arche shoes! So very comfortable and stylish too.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks so much for this recommendation!

  • Bruce
    3 years ago

    Women are not alone in the buying shoes dilemma. Many of us (male and female) wear orthotics, making shoe shopping all the more difficult. Because orthotics raise my foot up, slip-on shoes become impossible. Sandals can look ridiculous with orthotics. The orthotics also make it necessary to go with a wider width. With smaller feet (8.5), finding an E width is nearly impossible in most stores. And what is available, I wouldn’t wear anyway! I, too, often shop via the internet. Anyone have any suggestions for guys?

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Bruce, Thanks so much for bringing the male perspective in this. I know that men with RA sometimes feel overlooked while having this female-predominant disease, so I’m grateful to you for speaking up and reaching out to the men in our community. I’m going to share your comments with one of our male contributors to see if he has any thoughts when it comes to shoes. Thanks for being a part of our community!

  • Lori f
    3 years ago

    I like the brand Aravon. They are sandals mado on the same last as New Balance sneakers (my favorite brand) with sneaker technology

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks so much for the recommendation, Lori!

  • Janine Thiemann
    3 years ago

    I am thankful for SAS sandals because they have one style I can wear. I am physically unable to wear any other of the many sandals that are pegged as “Comfortable or Orthopedic”. I cannot wear closed toe shoes due to a hammertoe and other deformity. Will never be fashionable but literally wear sandals 365 days a year so a good thing I live in Florida!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for the recommendation, Janine!

  • Kami
    3 years ago

    I was recently doing my own spring sandle shopping. I found chacos to be my new favorite shoe! They are soo comfortable. Great arch support, adjustable straps and colorful selections. They are my “BFF” shoe!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing, Kami! I’m so glad you hit it off with a new brand. 🙂

  • jane
    3 years ago

    A podiatrist told me not to wear a shoe if I can bend it in half. So home I went and a friend of mine who has the same shoe size has had an early Christmas. He was right as I get less fatigued with walking if I have a firm sole. Summer is the hardest as I want to wear something lighter, but I pay for it in painful feet. Naot are great. Merrel also especially for the beach. I wear swim shoes at the beach and the pool and then I hobble less. They were a great invention.Pikolinos used to make a lace up boot that had the softest leather but I haven’t seen them for a while. I admit i waste money on shoes because they feel fine in the shop and not good later. It’s not the shoes but my feet. An ongoing obsession for the perfect fit!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your recommended brands and your doctor’s advice, Jane! Yes, the quest for the comfortable shoes can be an expensive one. Thanks also for your tip about water shoes. Wishing you all the best, Tamara

  • tammywagg
    3 years ago

    I love Skechers especially with memory foam. I find I can also wear a cushy flip flop if the day before I wore one of my skechers go walks. I also like Crocs. They are light and offer good support. Clarks are good too but they are on the more expensive side but Zulily often carries these brands at lower prices so I keep my eyes open for sales. I find I can wear a cuter cheap shoe if I’m going to be sitting for most of my day but if I’m going to be on my feet all day I prefer the Skechers, Crocs and Clarks. I’m 34 for those wondering.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks so much for those suggestions and tips, Tammy!

  • 2xwbai
    3 years ago

    I love Skechers with memory foam, especially Bobs that a I can wear with slacks to the office. Also, the Skechers boat shoes that lace up have a yoga mat insole and are heavenly. I recently bought a pair of Crocs slide on sandals that work with slacks, jeans, and dresses. The straps across the toes had the perfect opening that did not rub my bunion. For sandals, I have a pair of Chacos that give me good support and are still stylish for this 40-something girl. Shoes are my high ticket item. I like to forget I am even wearing shoes.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing these suggestions!

  • 5pd7ee
    3 years ago

    The weather just turned warmer here and I have been wearing flip flops and backless sandals to work. I walk a fair amount in my part time job. After reading your article wondering if my shoes are the reason my ankles have been hurting more??? Going to try and wear sneakers the next 2 days to see if it mAkes a difference. Thanks for sharing!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing, and good luck with your experiment!

  • Jan
    3 years ago

    Amen to everything you said! My feet are a mess from RA. In addition to the brands you mentioned for sandals I’m a fan of Wolky (the jewel sandal is awesome….looks much cuter on than the picture suggests), and Rieker. I have problems with flip flops too, especially after big toe surgeries but the Mephisto Helen is an exception. So much so that I own 3 pairs of them. There’s something about their footbed (especially once it molds to my feet) so I don’t have to grip it with my toes to keep it on. They look cute with casual dresses, skirts and shorts. Pikolinos are also super cute and comfy – they sell heels too but I have a pair of their flatter sandals and they feel great on my feet plus I always get compliments 🙂

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing these shoes that work for you! It’s helpful to be able to try specific shoes rather than start a blind search. Thanks!

  • Pollylopez6
    3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your problem with shoes!! I feel so imbarrased that my feet look so deformed! My toes go to the right on my right foot and left on my left foot!! Wearing sandles that hv no front cover is not possible. I took down the names of the companies you suggested. Thank you very much! Keep on keeping on!!
    Polly

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    I’m glad you found the post helpful, Polly! Thanks for sharing. I wish you success in your search for shoes. I wish we didn’t need luck for shoe shopping, but we do! So good luck, and I hope you can find something comfortable and cute.

  • tulugaq
    3 years ago

    Add to the list Aetrex, which are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn — esecially the Berries. Haven’t tried their sandals, though.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks so much for this suggestion, Lynn! It’s always great to have recommended brands for fellow RA warriors!

  • Kristin Joy
    3 years ago

    Thank you for writing about this! People think we shouldn’t care how we look but sometimes it helps me feel better about myself when I take extra care with my appearance. I dont always want to LOOK sick too. My favorite brand is Vionic by Orthoheel. I have their sandals and insoles to put in my regular shoes. I also have their slippers. The great thing about the slippers is they have adjustable velcro so if my feet are flared up I can adjust the fit.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing, Kristin! Yes, just because we have a chronic condition doesn’t mean we don’t want to look our best. Thanks for sharing what’s worked for you!

  • Crispy
    3 years ago

    I have a pair of red Ecco sandals, not the cutest but definitely the most comfortable , fully adjustable over toes , front and back of heel. Wish I had bought 2 pairs!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Colorado Girl
    3 years ago

    I agree with the shoe brands mentioned here. I have 2 additional favorites for comfort with at least a little style: Munro (up to extra wide widths), and Bernie MeV (stretchy). Both are available online.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing these brands!

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