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Shoes and Sandals for Healthy Feet

A few summers ago, I mentioned that we purchased Keen Newport Sandals for our boys to give their growing bodies optimal support from the ground up.

I've since received many notes from readers who have found Keen's H2 model to be helpful for a wide variety of physical problems surrounding the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and even the lower back region.

The positive praise for Keen sandals doesn't surprise me, as I've long observed chronic knee, hip, and ankle problems improve considerably after making sure that all of the joints in the feet and ankles are moving properly.

If you have chronic pain and/or stiffness in your lower extremities, you are likely to benefit from visiting a health care provider who has experience mobilizing the many joints - 33 of them, to be exact - in each of your feet that need to glide properly to allow the rest of your body to function normally.

Having tight muscles or a stiff joint within the middle part of one of your feet can cause problems all the way up to your head and neck. I've actually found that in some cases, chronic tension headaches can disappear within a few sessions of mobilizing the feet and ankles. This is why health practitioners who specialize in manual therapies think of the body as being a kinetic chain - each major joint sits next to other major joints, and like a series of gears, all joints need to function properly to allow the whole chain to function.

Since the mention of Keen sandals was well received, I'd like to share a few thoughts on other types of footwear that I can wholeheartedly recommend to provide optimal support to the feet and body.

But first, in case you're new to our website, please note that the two types of footwear that I don't recommend are high heels and flip flops.

The problems associated with wearing high heels are obvious. Wearing high heels significantly increases your risk of spraining an ankle.

High heels and other forms of footwear that have small toe boxes tend to crowd your toes, which can increase your risk of developing painful bunions and other toe deformities.

Wearing high heels can also contribute to lower back pain and upper back stiffness, as standing on the balls of your feet for long stretches forces your lower back to arch backward and your upper back to arch forward - not enough to be perceptible to most observers, but enough to cause real problems over the long term.

Flip flops generally make for poor footwear because they force your toes to chronically grip down onto the flip flops to keep your feet stable during gait. Though not so noticeable to most people, this constant flexing action by the toes can lead to a number of problems, most commonly plantar fascitis (pain in the arches of the feet), pain along the inner aspect of the knees, and even hip pain deep within the ball-and-socket joint.

So now that we're clear on the problems with wearing high heels and flip flops over the long haul, let's take a look at some of the most supportive shoes and sandals that you can use:

Keen Newport Sandals

We've already mentioned these super comfortable and supportive sandals. Here are some links to them at Amazon:

Keen Newport H2 Full Sandals for Women

Keen Newport H2 Full Sandals for Men

Keen Newport Sandals for Kids

Please note that a number of reviews of these sandals recommend ordering up half a size, so please consider this before purchasing Keen Sandals. Also, whenever you purchase footwear from a reputable company, so long as you don't wear new items outdoors, you can almost always receive a refund should you find that they aren't well suited for your feet and gait.

Birkenstock Milano Soft Footbed Sandal with Heel Strap

If you opt for a pair of world famous Birkenstocks, try to get one with heel straps. An adjustable heel strap is what allows feet to remain stable while walking in sandals, which addresses the constant toe-flexing problem that occurs with flip flops.

The Birkenstock sandals that I like best can be found here:

Birkenstock Milano Sandals with Heel Straps

Nike Flex Shoes

Though I prefer tennis to running and know a lot more about tennis shoes than running or training shoes, I've had many clients and colleagues swear by Nike Flex shoes.

I've tried a number of shoes over the years, and I can unequivocally say that no other shoe provides the same overall blend of comfort, lightweight support, and ventilation.

For women:

Nike Flex Run Women's Running Shoes

Here's the equivalent for men:

Nike Flex Run Men's Running Shoes

Though these shoes are designed to support serious runners, I think they're an excellent choice for long walks and just going about your everyday activities.

Asics Gel Resolution

And because I'm a true tennis nut, I can't end this post without a recommendation for a great tennis shoe. Top notch tennis shoes are actually some of the best shoes you can wear for activities that involve a lot of cutting from side to side.

I've tested all of the best offerings from Head, Wilson, Nike, Asics, Babolat, Lotto, and a few other tennis apparel companies, and the shoe that I have found to provide the best blend of comfort, stability, ventilation, and durability is the Asics Gel Resolution, currently in its 5th generation.

For women:

ASICS Women's GEL-Resolution 5 Tennis Shoe

For men:

ASICS Men's Gel-Resolution 5 Tennis Shoe

Because tennis shoes need to be durable enough to withstand explosive cutting in all directions, they are heavier than shoes like Nike Free that only need to be stable enough for running and less demanding everyday activities. But even with extra materials for durability, Asics Gel Resolution 5 provides incredible support while providing enough ventilation for your feet to remain comfortable.


Please remember: the shoes and sandals that you choose to wear on a daily basis have significant impact on the health of your joints over a lifetime. Consider that the average person walks around 5 miles per day, translating to 8,000 to 10,000 steps every day. Multiply this by decades, and it becomes obvious that it makes sense to invest in quality shoes that provide a good blend of support and stability.

Please feel free to share this post with family and friends who may not know about the importance of choosing quality footwear for a healthy body.


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need help finding shoes for the workplace! dress code does not allow sandals or athletic shoes!

Try on some Merrells. They have a supportive footbed and are very comfy.

Zappos often has the best prices and will send them to you with free shipping (both ways, if you need to return them).

I have found Aravon shoes by New Balance to be the best shoes I have found for comfort and engineering. I have MS and need a well fitting stable shoe that helps correct gait issues and pronation and Aravon does that well. I also wear New Balance walkers 865.

Footprints makes leather shoes suitable for working. They are expensive, but last forever. Look online. They used to be owned by Birkenstock.

Try NAOT...they are my fav!

I agree! I'm dissapointed to see nothing on here regarding appropriate workplace shoes. I really am a fan of flats, especially since I incurred a work-related knee-injury over 2 years ago.

Dr. Kim, if you happen to read this, can you follow up with some suggestions on supportive shoewear for the office?

Many thanks!

Try POTHIA shoes. Made in Oregon. Originally intended for surgeons on their feet all day long. My surgeon husband has three pairs for work (in surgery or in the office) and loves them. I also love my own pair. High quality leather tops; clog style or others to choose from. We purchase ours at COSCTO when they have a road show occasionally.

I agree that the shoes that one chooses to wear are critical to ones well being, particularly if a person walks or runs for exercise. Its been my experience that each person seems to require a different kind of foot support, and what works well for one person does not seem to work well for others. My personal favorite shoe at present is the Nike Free model. My feet seem to need a very flexible shoe. When I try other makes and models, then the pain begins.

Thanks for the shoe tips, and here's hoping that each of you finds "the right shoe" for you, and that they don't immediately "improve" it or stop making it.

I also thought you might want to take a look at Chaco sandals. They have a molded footbed and a very sturdy outsole. I know people that have had some for 15+ years. I like them because I have thin (top to bottom) and narrow feet and most shoes swallow my feet even if they are "the correct width. Chacos are fully adjustable! They also come in wide for people with wide feet.

Ditto! When I was pregnant, my feet were hurting from the extra weight. Chacos fixed the problem for me (took a day or two for my feet to get used to the supportive foot bed...not used to it), but my feet have never hurt ever since and I wish they made chacos for church!! lol! Actually, I have worn them to church with a skirt...I love them so much!

Hello dr kim. I would like to add a product to your shoe recommendations, which I found to be extremely good. I live in Australia and quite a few years back broke my fifth metatarsil in the right foot (the little outside bone). I had to reteach myself to walk through the pain after an extended stay in plaster and could not find any shoes that gave me sufficient support. Eventually someone put me on to Rockport shoes, which did help a little, but since a lot of their making has gone overseas I find them not to be as good as the originals. Plus they are so expensive. Eventually I found Crocs. They are not handsome shoes, but by golly they are GOOD. They are shaped inside for full support and my associated back, knee and hip pain, (and probably shoulder and neck pain) have all but disappeared. I am not a full blown australian, so I am not selling from a patriotic point of view. Just endorsing a wonderful product. My grandchildren, sister in law, and many friends now wear them and swear by them, not to mention the lady in the local shoe shop. Thank you for your wonderful newsletters. Hazel

I've had a pair of chaco sandals that just blew out after 6 years of use. I always felt that they gave me great support and were of terrific construction. But lately I've heard alot of rave about keens.

I was hopeing someone could give me a comparison of Chaco vs Keen if anyone has owned both for a significant amount of time?

The comfortable sandal and sneaker are one thing, but what about shoes for those of us who have to work in an office every day and wear nice suits? And I mean those of us who are not middle aged, big bellied sorts, but young and slim thirties/forties who want to look attractive (and whose position is often in the public eye)? Is there anything on the market for us?

I found a shoe in NYC by Hahn Cole that was made with a Nike Air Sole, but it has a quite high heel.

Has anybody found anything that is nice looking and yet ergonomically correct?

C Avery

Dansko makes some great closed toe shoes suitable for work, as well as really attractive walking sandals. They give great support and are super comfortable.Something to consider when looking for work appropriate footwear.

Clark's were all the rage in the late 70's for lightweight but dressy shoes.

Response to search for nice looking (women's)shoes appropriate for office wear: I have quite a low arch so, for instance, shoes by Dansko are not comfortable for me. I'm no "shoe-aholic," and the convenient places to shop nearby are limited, in this case a Premium Mall is my first stop. That said, the best luck I've had in finding comfortable shoes that would be office appropriate or even fancier are Clark's shoes. Even so, I still try each style on to check for comfort.

Thank you for a wonderful article. Very timely as I have been recently pondering this very subject. Also THANK YOU for the comments on flip flops; my wife wears them as do many at the office, school kids all year round and many even wear them to church and other places with formal attire. I cannot stand them, they make my toes hurt and the thought that people are driving in those things is down right scary. Besides, I think they cause a person to walk like a duck -- very unattractive and very unhealthy looking. Thanks again.

Hi- I have found Okabashi shoes to be wonderful. They have a great design with an arch support and have helped me recover from heel spurs and plantar fascaeitis. And they are inexpensive and completely recylable!

I have a totally damaged right foot from a fall and misdiagnosis 13 years ago. Every bone was broken in my foot. I can only wear MBT shoes. They provide a rolling foot bed and firm ankle and arch support. I even wear the sandals. MBT stands for Masai Barefoot Technology. Each pair of shoes comes with a video to help you learn to walk in them. They offer wonderful cushioning to people who have foot problems and great arch support. They ARE expensive, but worth the price.

Thanks for the helpful article, Ben! A pair of good shoes is priceless.

Thank you. I will check these out. I've been wearing Mephisto shoes for 10 years and they have kept me in alignment. Have you looked into these? If so, what is your opinion?

I understand the importance of having good shoes - but how often should they be worn and how much barefoot walking should I do? Since I bought my first good pair of sneakers last year, I wear them ALL day long. It is now 'uncomfortable' for me to walk with out them. I thought that maybe my shoe was acting like a crutch and actually making my feet weaker.

There is another side to the notion of what is best for the long term health of feet. We should walk barefoot whenever we are able because the muscles of our feet and lower legs are so underdeveloped since sophisticated sneakers have been on the scene. To test how weak your feet and leg muscles have become, just go barefoot for a few hours and notice how sore your muscles are the next day! If we went barefoot regularly our balance would improve dramatically, which is especially important as we get older. By the way, some excellent technology to recreate barefoot exercise has created "five finger shoes" and "MBT shoes" - if interested you can google those.

Another great shoe brand is DANSKO. Super comfy and support is wonderful. They have tons of different styles too.

Does anyone know good shoes for a teenager who needs a 1/2" lift in or attached to their shoes? I've heard Birkenstock repair places will put a higher sole on. But what about Keens or Chacos or some other brand?

After years of searching in vain for "teacher shoes" I could actually walk in (my position required lots of walking!), I'm retired. Now I need shoes to accommodate bunions. I've always taken good care of my feet, and worn good shoes, but now I have this arthritic condition. It doesn't affect the side of my foot, except that I need more space. There is pain and unpredictable flexibility on the tops of my big toe, and arch area, and under the arch. I can no longer bend my foot enough to get into many shoes, even New Balance. I think I need a show with a deep bed. I cannot wear my roomy winter boots to church all summer! Any experience with this? Any suggestions?

I had plantar fascitis for over a year. I tried the Birkenstock Milano and they were OK. After reading many customer testimonials, some from people with plantar fascitis, I tried Earth Shoes. My plantar fascitis is gone and my posture is better. I've been wearing only Earth shoes ever since - even around the house. I had a pair years ago and they looked like monster shoes. Now they have many, many styles, all with the negative heel technology. And I can get them online on sale. I'm really grateful.

I haven't tried the Wysong Ergonomic Insoles(TM) because I bought them for my husband to put into his work boots. They seem to be comfortable. The idea is "foot in the sand" technology. I like that they can be cut to fit and can be placed into any pair of shoes or boots.

The sandals have either leather or suede in them. So no luck for people who want animal-friendly products...