The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

How to Beat Sandal Foot Pain: Avoiding Blisters and Other Common Problems

Posted by on Monday, May 9th, 2016


For many of us, one of the highlights of summer is letting the air kiss our feet without freezing our toes off. Women can show off toe rings and their favorite nail polish colors. Men can enjoy drier feet without needing sprays and powders to keep odor down. Yet, indulging in sandals day in and day out can take a toll on your feet. Here are seven ways to beat sandal foot pain, from callouses to blisters.

sandal foot pain
Looking for the most comfortable spring and summer sandals? NYC podiatrists can help! (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons user Callista Lockhart)

1. Skip Backless Flops for Healthier Heels

Flip-flops are okay for hotel showers or to get you from your chaise lounge to the pool, but they’re not designed for heavy use. Backless sandals – especially flip-flops – allow excess movement. The resulting friction can cause cracks and callouses along your heels. When you walk in backless sandals, your toes also curl under, which can contribute to the development of hammertoes.

2. Ease Fatigue with Arch Support

Most spring and summer shoes are still hopelessly flat, although some designers are starting to provide more molded footbeds. Flat footwear can cause a myriad of issues from plantar fasciitis to Morton’s neuroma. Instead, try Birkenstock sandals, which are known to mold to your foot’s shape over time, or other sandals offering arch support.

3. Know How to Size Your Sandals

Here are some tips for choosing the correct size sandal:

  • Go up a size. Sandals can be a real conundrum because they often come in whole sizes, but it’s always better to be a little big than a little small.
  • Give yourself a millimeter at the heel. If your heel hangs over the back of the shoe, it’s too small. Treading on the rim of your sandal is sure to give you blisters or callouses, so give yourself a millimeter (or two) in back so your heel rests upon a smooth surface. Also, look for heels with a symmetrical heel cup.
  • Give yourself a thumbnail’s width at the tip. You don’t want your toes curling over the edge of your sandals. Your toes can go almost to the edge of the shoe without doing much damage, but we recommend leaving enough room to avoid the stitching. This helps prevent blisters or toe-curling that can contribute to hammertoes.
  • Check your shoe width. You can get away with an overly wide shoe if you have adjustable straps that can lock your foot in place and prevent excess pronation or supination. You do want to make sure your feet have a little space on either side so your ankle isn’t destabilized.
  • Check for proper strap tightness. Keep in mind that feet swell over the course of the day, so you may need to adjust the notch on your sandals periodically. When you’re buying a new pair of sandals, make sure there’s about an inch of strap left after your morning fastening.

4. Bring a Change of Shoes when You Have a Busy Day

If you know it’ll be chilly later, you’re likely to bring a sweater or jacket. So why not travel with a spare pair of shoes if you’ll be running around all day? Keep dressy shoes for more formal occasions or important business meetings, but switch into sneakers for the subway commute. No one will judge you, we promise.

5. Reduce Strap Pain with After-Market Products

Foot Petals Strappy Strips are a good investment for sandal lovers. You can stick this product on your sandal straps to prevent heel redness and blisters. Another product we like is forefoot gel pads, particularly for shoes that have any kind of incline to them. Check out thong protectors to prevent toe blisters and discomfort.

6. Use Candle Wax or Antiperspirant to Reduce Friction

Products you may have at home can come in handy if you need to reduce rubbing and chafing. You can rub candle wax (or beeswax) along leather strap linings or other problem spots to soften and smooth the material. Some people also rub antiperspirant along their sandals to help reduce irritation.

7. Look for Adjustable Styles

An adjustable strap sandal with a notch-and-hole enclosure is a good bet, but holes can get stretched out over time and clasps can loosen. An alternative is an elastic strap sandal, which fits like a glove and can be easily customized to your foot while still accommodating some swelling. Try something like the Bellamarie Jennifer 2 or Atika Men’s Sport Sandals for comfy customization.

Need more help with sandal-related foot pain or shoe choice? Our NYC podiatristry team can help.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.