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Tested: Sandals You Can Actually Walk in All Summer
05.19.17

It takes walking approximately 202 steps, or the equivalent of two city blocks, to determine how comfortable your shoes are. I know this to be true because I spent the greater portion of last week walking up and down the streets around my office building wearing several varieties of flat sandals in earnest and with gusto, like the hard-hitting investigative journalist I am, in order to determine the most comfortable styles. Because when the weather is nice and you live in a walking city, your shoes are essentially your car. They need to strike an even balance of comfort and good looks. When you’re dealing in flat sandals, not all shoes are created equal. So I conducted a walking test, pinpointing five different shoe styles. Each would be judged based on comfort and, depending on that, whether they were worth the wear (this worked in both directions; some were extremely comfortable but not particularly exciting to wear, while others were not comfortable at all but maintain the good looks of Jonathan Taylor Thomas).

It is curiously overwhelming to categorize different forms of summer sandals (there are so many: Are slides different from mules? Are cross straps different from a single bar that fastens across the foot?), so I demarcated by theme. The five themes were: doctor-recommended sandals (see: Dr. Scholl’s, but clogs could be included here, too), prototypically practical sandals (such as thongs or Tevas; I tried both), lace-up sandals (the ones I used are K. Jacques, with a very flat leather sole), slippers and novelty pairs (these are kind of a wild card; ones you get for the simple reason that you love them). Below are the scintillating results.

1. The doctor-recommended sandals:

Dr. Scholl’s slides, $54.99

I bought my first pair of Dr. Scholl’s last summer and was floored when I discovered, on the two-block walk from my apartment to a coffee shop, that a blister was developing on the outer corner of my left foot, about two inches south of my pinky toe. I also earned a small red bruise on the middle bone of both middle toes. It was tough to wear closed-toe shoes that weren’t soft (suede, satin) for about three days afterward. For this experiment, I tried a brand-new pair of red Scholl’s that I have every intention to ultimately break in. I did not develop a blister in the 202 steps I walked, which is perhaps a function of the weather (it wasn’t hot enough for my feet to swell). Either way, they passed the comfort test and were worth the wear.

2. The prototypically practical sandals:

Tkees flip flops, $50

The first thong-wearing of the season is just about as uncomfortable as a colonoscopy. You feel slightly violated and perhaps like you are being asked to ice skate on the sun. I developed slight bruising between my big and middle toes, but not enough to feel like I could not keep walking past the 202-step threshold. Did they pass the comfort test? Not exactly. Flip flops should make their wearer feel like she is rolling on marshmallows. Were they worth the wear? I get that flip flops are coming back in fashion (see: Dior’s most recent runway show, The Row’s current footwear offering), but I’m not exactly there yet. I’m holding on to them anyway. You know, just in case.

Prada Tevas, $495

Well, these were a doozy. And comfortable-as-fuq. Practically like wearing running sneakers with the added benefit of a platform. Did I feel like a dad on a guided tour of desert terrain in Israel? You betcha! Would I wear them again? Probably not. My feet are a little too pudgy for such a clunky, utilitarian shoe. For that reason, these earn the comfort badge but didn’t quite make the worth-it cut.

3. The lace ups:

K. Jacques lace ups, $268 (on sale for $93.80)

Speaking of pudgy feet — these ones make my toes look like pigs in a blanket. That doesn’t bother me as much as it should, because lace ups are dynamic enough to make a boring outfit (see: shorts and a T-shirt, a simple dress) feel much cooler. They do a really fun thing where if you wear them for long enough, they start to make your heels feel like they are actual hot coals. That said, the laces stay up if you are willing to suffocate your ankles and, as aforementioned, they add a good dose of jazZzZzZzZz~*~ to otherwise quotidian outfits. For that reason, they don’t necessarily win the comfort game, but are completely and utterly worth the blanket pigs.

And pro tip! They are fun to style with a bathing suit and absolutely nothing else.

Marcela B. lace ups, $530

I found these on Moda Operandi and was sure they would be extremely comfortable: The top is mesh, there is a teeny-tiny wedge and the lace ups are made from very thin, very soft satin. But the stretch, woven canvas at the back of the shoe (where the laces hook in to wrap up your leg) generated two generously sized blisters at the backs of my ankles. Neither of which has forbidden me from wearing closed-back shoes, which is a plus, but as far as comfort goes, they’re on the fence. Absolutely worth it given THE PUKA SHELLS stitched into the mesh across the front, but to be fair, they did also fuck up my pedicure (the leather lining on the mesh hits directly at the midpoint of my big toe). Overall score: uncomfortable, not worth it.

4. The slippers:

The Row sandals, $795 (on sale for $397)

I don’t know if you’ve ever had little steak knives cut into the corners of your feet, but that’s a lot like what breaking in The Row’s satin slippers can feel like because of the narrow straps across the sides of the shoe (great theoretically because they keep your foot from falling out of the slipper; rough in practice). It took like, 50 steps for these to reveal themselves as profoundly uncomfortable, but exactly five dedicated wears of powering through the pain to break in. There is not a single version of reality where I don’t deem them worth it. (If you, like me, want to feel like an extravagant woman on the French Riviera, wearing satin shoes around her yacht because she is so laissez-faire that she doesn’t acknowledge that she is surrounded by water in satin footwear, these are absolutely the shoes that can do that for you). So you’re in terrible pain for a couple of weeks. Whatever.

Alumnae sandals, $425

I really like these ones. I do worry about whether the green suede is going to stain my foot on particularly hot days, but it’s a trade well worth it when considering how supple the fabric is — it makes the shoes so damn comfortable. Added bonus: because you can walk in them, they’re perfect to wear with your fitness lewk (not to be confused with workout clothes), but are great with a silk caftan, too (I’m speculating). Overall, these probably win most comfortable and worth it. 

But we still have…

5. The novelty pair:

Miu Miu slippers, $950 (on sale for $665)

As far as I am concerned, these define what escapist shoes are all about. Having a shitty day? LOOK DOWN. Feel boring from the ankle up? LOOK DOWN. Want an iced coffee but shit, you’re overcaffeinated

LOOK

DOWN.

The thing is, it’s tough to comment on the comfort level because you cannot walk a further distance than, say, from the bathroom in your 500-square-foot apartment to the kitchen. They are like fashion Prozac, though, and for that I think they’re worth it. But actually, I’m conflicted on that clause, too. When you are lucky enough to have legs that work and want to use them because the weather is nice, is it ever worth sacrificing mobility for shoes? I don’t know. Maybe these win the prize for most creative and simultaneously attractive bookends.

Photos by Leandra Medine; feature image by Edith Young.

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  • Abby

    Birkenstocks, hands down, are the comfiest and best ugly sandal. I plan to get into an exclusive relationship with mine all summer.

    • Olivia

      I bought Birkenstocks last year thinking they would be the best, but the straps give me blisters on the tops of my feet! Any suggestions?

      • Abby

        They are shoes that absolutely require breaking in. Did you try adjusting the straps? If they’re rubbing they’re maybe too tight?

        • Olivia

          They’re definitely broken in by now – my guess is that the top of my foot is too sensitive, but who knows?! I’ve tried adjusting the straps, but no luck. Currently wearing band aids from walking to work in them this morning. I just love the arch support they give me!

          • Meg S

            Have you tried the suede pairs? The leather they use can be stiff, but I have a suede pair that’s really soft and flexible. It took some wearing to get it that way, but I don’t remember that particular pair being as stiff as the leather pairs.

      • Andrea Raymer

        same! I have literal scars on my feet from Birks. My Tevas have yet to do this to me.

        • Olivia

          I’m so happy I’m not alone!! Maybe a pair of Tevas should be my next investment, I love your rainbow ones!

          • libs

            my mum bought me birks when I was an irascible teen and kept buying impractical sandals that gave me blisters and almost temper tantrum-ing in public places… but then the birks just cut my feet up even more!! apparently once you’ve broken them in they’re fine, but i still can’t trust them through the early stages.

        • lily

          my tevas have never betrayed me GBLESS

    • Angeliki

      I swear by Birkenstocks. I have far too many pairs in various colours! Yes, they might not the prettiest shoes ever made, but I couldn’t care less. They have saved my feet from pain and blisters.

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    • Meg S

      My relationship with Birks has already started. I wore the gizas to work 3 days last week. It’s strange that people tell me how cute they are. I’m like… out of all my shoes, these are the ones you say are cute? Then again, I work with environmental scientists (I’m in the admin/finance group) so maybe these are cute by hippie standards. I can wear them with a casual dress. I can wear them with pants. It doesn’t matter, they kind of go with everything. They’re super comfortable and supportive. I have a pair of wool clogs for cooler weather, and arizonas for when I don’t care if I go full on hippie.

      But I can’t wear them this week because summer went away and it’s spring again. So taking at least 2 pairs with me for my upcoming German excursion (which might result in more Birkenstocks).

  • yk

    Why not wear regular Tevas, which are 10 times cheaper?

    • Leandra Medine

      the prada ones have a three inch platformmmmmmmmmmm

      • Hil

        for anyone willing to settle, teva has some with 2 and a quarter inch platforms for $60

    • BmoreGirl70

      Sure the writer got to keep them! Free advertising.

  • Leandra Medine

    sorry my feet look the way they do

    • Leandra Medine

      its fine

    • Nicole

      your wonderful feet look nice wearing three months of my rent in this article. love you guys but where are your Bodega Crocs (I invented this term but they’re at a lot of 99cent stores in brooklyn)? Maybe I’m extravagantly poor but I’d rather see your feet (honestly they’re not pig in a blanket at all) in shoes I can afford and lust after appropriately.

    • Kiks

      Your feet made me smile.

      (I feel like that’s a really weird thing to say.)

  • SC

    This article speaks the truth in that you imagine sandals should be comfortable because hey, they’re not heels and they seem so casual and laid back, but you are wrong! Sandals are for sitting still, which is silly because in the hot months you only sit still inside where it’s air-conditioned and your naked feet get cold.

  • Andrea Raymer

    I just bought Tevas last week when I’m pretty sure you were doing this experiment and I am wearing them for the first time right now. HOLY GOD they are comfortable. also they are rainbow.

    also considering I have 3 broken toes on my left foot and I recently sprained my right ankle (like 2 months ago, I quit crutches, it still hurts) I have been seeking out arch support wherever it may be.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7d6d1238ccdaf93201f3ca2317d50c0fbe4ca304a98790f882d04ea328a495cf.jpg

    • Julia Park

      Those colorsss!! And $75! I may have to go buy them right now…

  • Babs

    Ok, I do feel slightly misled by the title, as v few were comfy? But I appreciate any opportunity to window shop!

    • ah, you should try the sandals from highfeels, I honestly think they are the most comfortable sandals I have ever had T_T <3

  • Alison

    “on sale for $695” makes me laugh. That’s half of my mortgage!

  • Bee

    I have a pair of leather/cork slides from Sydney Brown that are so comfortable, I wear them nearly every day in the summer.

  • Cynthia Schoonover

    I’m all about comfort. The most comfortable flip flop I own is the Capri by Crocs. The leather straps are lined with faux suede, and the foot bed is so cushiony I feel like I’m walking on marshmallows. I wore them for several hours the first time, and I had no blisters or chafing from the straps, and the thong is soft and non-irritating. The arch support is decent if you have foot problems. They come in several colors, and I have the tan which was the only color available in my size at the time. TOMS makes some comfy flat sandals, too.

  • BmoreGirl70

    Those feet! Why would I listen to advice from someone who has bunions, blisters and corns? Ugh…

  • Karla Meyer Williams

    Fit Flops are the best, hands down!

  • Ah haha, I can’t believe things like the Tevas exist, they just look incredibly ugly to me. Aside from that I love the collection in here, but I really missed barefoot sandals! Unfortunately most shoes like that are quite ugly too (and I need them because of my posture problems and back pain..), so I would have loved to see your staff picks. In the end I switched to the sandals of https://highfeels.com/ about a year ago and I really love them, plus they are super comfy too. I bet they would have won the comfort game from the tie up sandals 😀

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7946ade5dabfc25cfd08580b55252cd7b86f6a6482d529d3e7dd8dd9c409c241.jpg

  • Insider for sandals to really wear all summer: the sandals from https://highfeels.com/ – I switched recently, they are super comfy and make a great match to all my outfits. Also I’d bet they would have won the comfort game from the tie up sandals 😀

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c46cdb499eb5385c78f904141b62f6034eba3d217d1fd87e03d4bcaeb1233218.jpg

    • Meg S

      I have a mighty need for those shoes.

  • Mari

    Please try the Italian brand Geox! I must have 20 pairs of them. They have stylish choices and walking in them is a dream. I bought these gorgeous colourful ones last week and walked for a couple of hours in them with no blisters or discomfort 🙂 http://www.geox.com/en/women/shoes/heeled-sandals/marilyse-yellow-and-dark-violet-D724UB00021C2V8K.html

  • KP

    Whenever I wear my Birks on a somewhat hot day (high 70s, or mid 20s if you use Celsius), the bottoms of my feet feel like they are on fire after walking short distances. This isn’t necessarily only because the footbed gets warm (it does), because the pain lasts well after taking off my Birks. Does anyone else have this problem? Any good solutions? I don’t have this issue when I wear other shoes. :/

  • Nikka Duarte

    I AUDIBLY GASPED AT THE MIU MIU SLIPPERS!

  • Mike Basden

    Too bad you didn’t test Marisoles. They’re awesome! My wife and her friends swear by them! Marisoles.com

  • Flat Feet

    I wish you tried one of the Ancient Greek Sandals collection. Does anyone here know if they’re comfortable?

  • elpug

    As my mom always said “beauty knows no pain” I have always valued looks over comfort and function but lately am getting into the comfort factor

  • Caity

    Bared sandals. As an Australian who visited New York in August last year, when temperatures were 35-37 celsius each day I was there, I can say I BROKE IN these rose-gold lace up sandals (I’d worn them once before I flew out of Melbourne) walking 15km+ daily, and all I got was one small blister on the back of a heel on day 1 – rectified with a band aid. They made me feel less like a boring, dorky tourist who needed comfortable footwear in the heat of summer and more like ‘normal me’, but transplanted to NYC. Bared shoes are designed by a podiatrist who wanted to make stylish shoes, and I have worn both the sandals and ankle boots TO DEATH. Highly recommend. They ship to the States, too!

    https://bared.com.au/product/Toucan-2-Rose-Gold-Nubuck-Lace-Up-Sandal
    https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/bared/1487731462052_bared_footwear_toucan-2_rg_1.jpg

  • hey, I love the new layout. But it’s majorly slow in countries with slower internet 😛
    The older version wasn’t. Would you check on this?

  • Dale Chong

    I’m quite loyal to my Arizona Birkenstocks. However, I do also love a pair of rubber slippers I get that look like woven leather I got at the flea market in Hawaii. Perfect for the beach, walking around, house slippers and more. And they don’t look half bad either.

    BESIDES, who said Birkenstocks were REALLY that ugly? Hm???

  • Nur Huda Khamis

    3 pairs of tevas and counting. Living in sunny Singapore doesn’t give me much of a reason not to wear them really. If anyone questions my style choices, Ill back it up saying I’m cooler than you. (figuratively and literally) these feet ain’t cooped up.

  • Kay Nguyen

    I’m a huge sucker for sliders! I got my Puma Fenty fur sliders and it’s ridiculously comfortable <3

    https://www.myblackcloset.com/

  • Rachel

    These summer sandals looks very cool..I would not worry about my tan and will definitely go for these. Really nice ones with unique styles

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  • Nicole

    You should definitely try the sandals from Aerosoles! I get a pair or two every summer and they are all I wear 🙂 they’re always comfortable

  • pdbraide
    • lily

      LOVE

  • stinevincent

    I have to say I don’t get why big labels are taking up the ugly sandal trend with Tevas. Chacos are better shaped for feet, and hugely comfortable. I’ve had mine since before ugly sandals were back, but I’ve always appreciated that they make my flat, odd hooves look almost ladylike.

  • Jessica Downing

    Just throwing this out there because it’s been a lifesaver for my feet, moleskin for shoes is the absolute best! It comes in sheets and you cut whatever amount you need and stick it into shoes where they rub and it works wonderfully!

  • Chess

    lads lads lads… I accidentally joined the army at university and moral quandries aside they know how to look after their feet. Any situation where you think you might get a blister? TAPE YOUR FEET, with zinc oxide tape. You can do tiny sections just under where the shoe will rub so you can’t see it much. On clean, dry feet, rub the tape on real good. Tape round your toes if they’re cramped, treat yourself. Some kinds of tape are not sticky enough, I recommend amazon over chemists.

    Got a blister? COMPEED THAT ISH, pain gone. Blister won’t get worse

    That’s it we’ve cured blisters congratulations everybody

  • Katlyn Marchini

    Camper Sandals are super comfy. Even these ones that have a heel. https://www.camper.com/en_US/women/shoes/kobo/camper-kobo-K200342-002