It’s the annual pre-summer holiday dilemma: when it comes to footwear do you go for chic, leather slip-ons, spongy pool sliders or perhaps good, old fashioned flip-flops?
Trouble is, you want shoes that ooze style without destroying your feet.
This year’s must-have is the leather slip-on seen adorning the feet of celebrities such as model Helena Christensen.
But the design, which features a single strap of thin leather across the toes, is a guaranteed route to strained tendons and agonising heel pain, according to podiatrist Emma Price.
And it’s not the only style to avoid, say the experts. From 70s-style Birkenstocks to the Duchess of Cambridge wedge, here are the summer shoes that will have you aching for a sit down…
Wedges, often worn by the Duchess of Cambridge (pictured in Heidelberg, Germany 2017), are one of this summer’s must-have shoes. But experts warn it could cause damage to your feet
Celebrity slip-ons can be such a pain
Budget-friendly versions of this current favourite, originally created by Italian designer Hermes, main picture, are plentiful.
They have a broad, leather strap across the toes. The sole is flat, although some versions tout a tiny heel.
VERDICT: The main issue, says Price, is the heel and ankle remain largely unsupported – a recipe for pain and injury ‘because the foot slides around easily’.
While the Hermes sandal (pictured), and budget-friendly versions of it are popular – the main issue for wearers is the heel and ankle which is largely unsupported – a recipe for pain and injury ‘because the foot slides around easily’
‘This puts excess strain on ankle ligaments, bands of tissue that join bones together, leading to sprains,’ she says. ‘It can even tear them.’
The flat sole also puts pressure on heel tendons, which join muscle to bone, causing painful foot cramps and Achilles tendonitis – soreness in the leg or above the heel.
A 2010 study of more than 3,000 women in the US found those wearing sturdy shoes or boots were 67 per cent less likely to suffer foot pain than those favouring flat, slip-on footwear.
Wear this hippy favourite instead
If you’re planning summer walks, the hippy favourite Birkenstock, left, is undoubtedly the shoe for you.
Its best feature is a firm, cork sole that is moulded to fit the shape of your foot.
This combats the most common cause of foot pain – no support of the natural curves of the feet, also called the arches.
This supportive shape balances the distribution of body weight across the legs and feet, preventing damage to ligaments and muscle strain.
‘Opt for a version with two bands across the top of the foot and an ankle strap for optimum stability that will stop you slipping’, advises Emma Price.
The best feature of the Birkenstock sandal (pictured) is the firm, cork sole that is moulded to fit the shape of your foot
Price says strengthening muscles can help, and adds: ‘Try simply jumping up and down on the spot on your toes. Or opt for a version with a slight heel.’
COMFORT SCORE: 3/5
Flimsy flip-flops may lead to toe surgery
The beach-to-bar classics are usually made with leather or foam, with a narrow Y-shaped thong that slip between the toes.
VERDICT: ‘Flip-flops are the worst shoes you can wear. They are only fit for around the pool,’ warns Price.
Walking in flimsy flip-flops for longer than 30 minutes daily can put you at risk of hammer toe – where tendons in the toes shorten.
The toes grip on to the shoe to keep the foot stable, one of the most common causes of hammer toe,’ says Emma.
It’s a condition that affects three million Britons and, left untreated, the bent toes become rigid and may even need surgery to correct the deformity.
But if you are prone to sweaty feet, fungal infections and verrucas, flip-flops might be good for short-spells of walking.
Emma says: ‘The feet are exposed, so there is air flow to reduce the risk of fungal infection.’
COMFORT SCORE: 1.5/5
Wedges are as bad as stilettos, Kate
Often considered ‘foot-friendly’, the wedge – featuring a flat platform made of cork or rubber – has surged in popularity after the Duchess of Cambridge sported a navy blue suede pair by US designer Stuart Weitzman, inset above.
VERDICT: Not much better than stilettos. Wedges put excess pressure on the delicate bones behind the toes, called metatarsals, which can lead to foot and back pain.
While wedges, sported by the Duchess of Cambridge and often considered foot friendly, these shoes are not much better than stilettos as the put excess pressure on the delicate bones behind the toes
‘It means they are bearing half the body’s entire weight,’ says Price.
Research shows frequently wearing heels between two and three and a half inches high, whether stilettos or wedges, increases the risk of knee osteoarthritis.
But their width means wedges do give broader support than stilettos – acting as a ‘shock absorber’ to reduce impact.
Price says: ‘There is more material on the ground than with a single heel, meaning less of a load on the hip and knee joints.’
COMFORT SCORE: 2/5
Downside that can sink the boat shoe
Rubber-soled lace-up boat shoes first emerged in the 1930s to stop slips on yachts and boats.
The patterned rubber soles give extra grip on slippery decks and leather versions are water-repellent.
Podiatrist Emma Price says boat shoes (pictured) are ‘great for anyone with weak ankles that sprain easily or with torn ligaments’
VERDICT: ‘Great for anyone with weak ankles that sprain easily or with torn ligaments,’ says Price.
‘The rubber sole is sturdy, which stops the foot wriggling.’
But there’s a ghastly downside if worn without socks – athlete’s foot.
‘The feet can’t breathe and moisture cannot evaporate, leading to the growth of fungus, especially in humid conditions.’
COMFORT SCORE: 3.5/5
Achilles heel for A-list espadrilles
Espadrilles – closed-toe flats, often made with cotton fabric and rubber sole – have been given a stylish revamp and are now popular with A-listers such as Penelope Cruz and Jennifer Aniston.
VERDICT: Espadrilles have ample room for the foot to move about in, meaning the skin is less likely to rub on the material, causing painful blisters.
But with little or no heel, they can trigger plantar fasciitis – heel pain caused by the tendon becoming inflamed.
Espadrilles have ample room for the foot to move about in, meaning blisters are less likely happen as the skin is less likely to rub on the material. But with little or no heel, they can trigger plantar fasciitis – heel pain caused by the tendon becoming inflamed
‘Ideally, the heel should be only slightly higher than the toe,’ says Price. ‘So a gel insole will help absorb some of the impact of the foot hitting the ground.’
COMFORT SCORE: 3/5
Sporty sliders are accident-prone
Flat, rubber slippers resembling flip-flops but with a wide strap to cover the front part of the foot.
VERDICT: Great for hot climates when feet are prone to swelling because they are roomy enough to accommodate expansion – especially those versions with a Velcro front strap.
The risk of fungal infections and blisters is therefore lower than that of a pump or Birkenstock.
But cheaper versions, Price warns, lack built-in arch supports to prevent pain for those with flat feet. And they can be an accident waiting to happen.
‘Although the wide front band keeps your toes in place, the lack of a heel strap could spell danger – resulting in falls or trips,’ says Emma.
‘People often kick these shoes off accidentally when they walk.’
COMFORT SCORE: 2/5