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Time to toss out your sandals? Podiatrists break down the 3 signs to look for

"When you first start wearing them, they might be comfortable, but they tend to flatten out over time."
There are a few ways to determine if it’s time to kick your sandals to the curb.
There are a few ways to determine if it’s time to kick your sandals to the curb.Close up of sandals / Vivian Le/ Today

Finding your sole-mate isn’t easy, but when you come across a pair of sandals that fit just right and don’t rub the wrong way, it’s tempting to wear them into the ground. Alas, even the sturdiest of shoes have a shelf life and will only last so long. In other words, you might be wearing your sandals too long.

Not sure how to tell when it’s time to retire your go-to summer footwear? We asked the pros to share a few pointers, plus we’re recommending some cute styles you can add to your collection when you do.

What happens if you wear your sandals too long?

“Sandals tend to be less stable shoes. When you first start wearing them, they might be comfortable, but they tend to flatten out over time,” Kevin Douglas, DPM, podiatrist at NYU Langone Medical Associates, explains. “Having a flatter support causes the tendons to stabilize the body when standing or walking, which can lead to tendinitis if you’re wearing your sandals for too long. Flat sandals without arch support can also cause heel or plantar fasciitis pain.”

You can also experience varying side effects based on the type of sandal you’re wearing, according to podiatrist Dr. Emily Splichal.

“Many sandals are thin and quite flexible. If they start to lose structure, there is less impact on the foot," she tells us. "If you are wearing more of a supportive sandal and that support breaks down, you may begin to feel stress to the feet and arches."

Per Bradley A. Levitt, DPM, wearing sandals in excess can also lead to loss of grip or traction, which can result in falls or slips.

“Materials that come into contact with the foot can also wear down and cause skin irritation (i.e. blisters). Depending on the thickness of the sole of the sandal, it can lose its ability to provide protection from puncture/abrasions and support,” he explains.

How do you know when it’s time to replace your sandals?

In an ideal world, it’d be easy to tell when your shoes are past their prime. But in reality, it’s not always so clear. Luckily, there are a few ways to determine if it’s time to slip into a new pair of kicks.

  • Examine the bottom of the sandal: “If you see the heel is worn very thin or starting to tear, the sandal has worn out. If you feel the straps of the sandal are much looser or tearing then they have worn out,” Splichal says.
  • Listen to your feet: “You may start to feel your feet getting tired or even heel pain when walking. This can be due to less structure around the shoe acting as a layer between the foot and the ground,” Splichal says. On the other hand, Levitt mentions, if the shoe doesn’t hurt, “it’s probably OK.”
  • Consider any foot conditions you may have: “For instance, overpronators will tend to have wear appear on the inside part of the bottom of the shoe, which is usually a good sign that it may be time to replace your shoes,” podiatrist and foot/ankle surgeon Dr. Asim Sayed, says. “Other signs are pain and discomfort (which causes you to experience fatigue earlier than normal), areas of repetitive rubbing in the shoe and breakdown of the materials.”

Products to help extend the life of your sandals

Dr. Scholl’s Odor-X Ultra Odor-Fighting Spray Powder

Let’s be honest, sandals can get pretty funky when you’re sweating in them all the time. If yours aren’t machine-washable, you can still nix any unpleasant smells with this shoe and foot odor eliminator. 

CleanKicks Shoe Cleaner Wipes

The minute you step outside in your new kicks, they tend to pick up dirt and grime. If you’re hoping to keep them in mint condition (particularly if they’re a light color), these shoe cleaner wipes can help banish any stains in a flash.

Dr. Scholl’s Cushioning Insoles for Flats and Sandals

Sandals aren’t always ideal for insoles due to their design, but these quarter-length options fit quite nicely inside heeled sandals. The gel inserts provide arch support, cushioning and shock absorption in the heel and ball of foot 

Shoe Storage Boxes

Sandals can take a beating while you’re stomping around town, but they can also experience general wear and tear when they’re not in use. If you’re looking to keep them fresh in between wears, store them in a clear box that fends off dust, spills and curious furry friends. This bestseller has over 3,400 five-star ratings and fits 10 pairs.

Protalus H-75 Insole

These insoles are ideal for heeled sandal varieties. According to the brand, the insole “redistributes the pressure around the foot and relieves some of the burden carried on the ball of the foot, in order to prevent discomfort and pain.”

Do certain styles of sandals tend to last longer than others?

No two shoe styles are alike and that means different types of sandals will hold up differently than others. Looking for a sandal that will go the distance? Keep these expert tips in mind.

  • Look for sturdy soles: “Sandals with thicker soles are more likely to last longer and be a bit more durable for long-term use,” podiatrist and foot/ankle surgeon Dr. Asim Sayed says.
  • Consider the material: “Cork is always a very good material for sandals as it lasts a long time. Materials that are foam-based...will break down sooner simply based on the materials that are being used,” Splichal explains. “Plastics typically do not wear down that quickly, but I don’t recommend plastic for sandals as it can cause irritation. You want to make sure the plastic doesn’t contain BPAs that can be absorbed through your skin.”

Sayed offers a piece of good news if you have a hard time letting go of your favorite sandals, though.

“If you are wearing them less regularly, they don’t really need to be changed out after a certain period of time. The structural integrity of the materials can last many years if seldom used."

Sandals to shop

Universal Thread Rian Slide Sandals

Flat slide sandals are a summer staple that will never go out of style, and they’re ideal for quick errands or walking around the house. This pair also happens to be quite affordable and comes in four colors. Just make sure not to wear them if you’re planning to walk a lot.

“Traditional flip-flops that offer zero to little support are only intended to be worn for short distances or amounts of time. For example, to the pool, beach, around the home, etc. Slides can be worn for a bit longer, but these are mostly intended for recovery, therefore also intended for short distances,” Asim explains.

With their soft jersey straps and foam insole, these sandals offer up plenty of comfort. The small platform shoes have a round-toe and slip-on design, and they’re available in two neutral hues and two summer-ready colors.

Dr. Comfort Kelly Sandals

If you’re seeking support, these slide sandals might be just what the doctor ordered. They feature a cushioned footbed, arch support and a dual-density midsole that cradles feet in comfort.

Rockport Tala Washable Sandal

Cute and comfortable don’t always go hand in hand, but these sleek sandals combine both features with ease. They have a contoured footbed with ample cushioning and arch support, adjustable straps and a soft suede material. They’re also machine washable!

Keds x Rifle Paper Co. Trio Sandal

Seeking a sporty and sassy style? These kicks might spark your fancy. The strappy sandals have a fanciful floral print, strategic padding and a supportive footbed. In other words: What more could your feet ask for?

Aetrex Janey Braided Slide

Luckily, you don’t have to sacrifice style for comfort these days. Case in point? These braided slide sandals that offer up ample arch support, memory foam cushioning and adjustable closures. The breezy style would look just as sweet with a flowy sundress or cutoffs and a T-shirt, and it comes in three neutral hues: black, white and brown.

Vionic Tide Aloe Toe Post Sandal

Flip flops that put a premium on comfort? Yes please! These sandals from Vionic have received the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Seal of Acceptance and absorb shock to minimize stress on your feet as you walk. They also offer arch support and have a built-in orthotic that can alleviate heel pain.

Skechers GO WALK Massage Fit Sandals

“There are some sandals that can be worn for long distances and these are going to incorporate a sole that closely resembles a tennis shoe,” Asim told us.

If you want a sandal that’s easy on the feet and will last quite some time, look no further. Skechers’ Go Walk Massage Fit Incite sandal has a cushioned midsole, contoured footbed and technology that massages your feet as you walk. The neutral hues are also quite handy if you don’t want to worry about matching your shoes to your outfit.

Dansko Rosette Sandal

Variety is the spice of life, and these slide sandals come in five color options to help you find your perfect hue. The cozy shoe has earned the APMA seal of acceptance and has several notable features, including a lightweight midsole, arch support and an energy return footbed that keeps feet protected while you’re stomping around town.

FitFlop Lulu Adjustable Leather Slides

Craving style and flexibility? This leather slide can be customized to suit your foot’s unique needs with its adjustable straps. The slip-resistant style has soft padding that cushions feet as you walk and it also has a pretty solid sole.

Vivaia Criss Cross Straps Slides

Casual meets cute! These lightweight sandals have a contoured footbed, a supportive outsole that offers ample traction and a sweat-absorbent insole. On the vanity front, they have a sassy textured strap and come in eight colors, including solids and striped designs.

Tread Labs Covelo Sandal

The slip-on style is ideal for those with plantar fasciitis and offers plenty of support, all while being soft and lightweight. As an added bonus, the water-friendly shoes are safe to wear to the beach or toss in your washing machine.

Sorel Flatform Mule Wedge Sandal

These Sorel wedges have a sturdy, sporty sole that offers ample traction and a foam footbed that cushions feet as you go about your day. They come in four colors, but we’re crushing on the hot pink shade called Fuchsia Fizz.

Kuru Footwear Breeze Slide Sandal

The easy-to-wear style has an open back, yet it still has lots of heel, ankle and arch support. The roomy front is also ideal for sensitive toes that don’t like to rub up against straps.

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