Help me find the best sandals for orthotics!
July 14, 2009 9:10 PM   Subscribe

I just received my first pair of full-length custom orthotics to help correct an SI injury I've been receiving physical therapy for. Problem is, I have no shoes that fit both my feet and the new orthotics except my sneakers. I desperately need a pair of sandals since, you know, it's summer and all. What are the best sandals for orthotics?

Relevant details: My feet are size 10.5-11 women's, 9.5 men's, 42.5-43 euro. I am a late 20-something work-at-home mom of a toddler and I mostly dress like a tomboy. I am not opposed to a stylin' pair of men's sandals. Previously I wore Merrells, Birkenstocks, and Crocs.

Besides my obvious lack of fashion sense, is there any hope for me?
posted by raintea to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Great question! Unfortunately, my answer is that hope for sandals plus orthotics may be slim. I'd love to see if anyone has other thoughts. Here's my experience:

Since getting orthotics 12 years ago, I've found that sandals are pretty much out. The problem is, sandals are a no-sock kind of shoe, and I find orthotics pretty much require socks. Occasionally I cheat for dress-up, but it's hard to justify buying sandals when I know they won't even be worn enough to break them in.

Mostly for work I wear mens-ish shoes, or else I'm in sneakers. Sensible shoes, ya know? There are some stylish sneaker-ish things, though, such as you might find at a Sketcher's outlet. But I find they're not very comfortable, and that the sides/back aren't high enough to accommodate the orthotics, causing my heels to slide out each time I take a step.

The whole thing really puts a damper on outfits with skirts. I'm usually not willing to rock the skirt-with-sneakers look, so my best option has been boots. But then, it's been hard for me to find non-heeled dressy boots. (Side note: I'm in the US, but when I was in Israel 4 years ago, I was shocked at how common flat boots were over there.) And that's not a great solution for summer when sandals are definitely in order.

Good luck. Hope to see some other posts with more optimistic suggestions!
posted by quinoa at 10:16 PM on July 14, 2009

I've given up. When I want to dress up I go orthotic-less and am just a lot clumsier. Pretty much I only wear sneakers now.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:47 PM on July 14, 2009

You might want to ask your podiatrist for suggestions, but I've never figured out how to do sandals plus orthotics either. I have full-length ones in my running shoes, cross trainers, and dress shoes, but not sandals. I've just tried to buy sandals with high arches that seem to mimic the 'feel' of my orthotics, and not wear them for more than one day in a row.

I've heard anecdotally that there are companies that do custom shoes — basically a shoe that's designed like an orthotic, or has a built-in orthotic — maybe you could get a sandal from one of them.

Or if you wanted to DIY something and didn't mind risking an orthotic, you could try gluing one with some rubber cement or other appropriate glue to a set of sandals with adjustable straps. (Actually I have several old orthotics that are too beaten up for normal wear; I might give this a try with a cheap pair of Tevas.) Picking the right glue that would stick to both the sandal and the orthotic material would be the hard part, I think.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:39 AM on July 15, 2009

Without my orthotics, I am in literal, crying pain after two or three hours.

Unless I'm wearing Chacos. I have very high arches, and over-pronate like mad. If this isn't your problem, they might not be as awesome, but I really urge you to try them.
posted by aint broke at 2:30 AM on July 15, 2009

I've found that sandals that permanently deform and hold the shape of my foot work well as an orthotics replacement.

The pair I have use a hemp footbed that now looks like my orthotics after wearing for a summer. I would imagine there are other styles that have a similar footbed that will readily deform to your foot.
posted by chiefthe at 4:58 AM on July 15, 2009

My mother has to wear shoe inserts because of her knees, and she went on a huge search for sandals she could wear with them. She lives in Florida, so it's fairly warm year round. Pretty much everyone told her that it was impossible. She finally went to one of those places that sell orthopedic shoes and other walking aids. They had some styles of sandals that you could put orthotics into and they also custom made her some sandals where the footbed is shaped like her orthotic. Keep in mind, these are no where near as open as some of the sandals you can buy at a dept store. Support around the middle of the foot seems to be key to her orthotics working well (I'm not sure if it's different for different people). But they are open toed and open heeled, and they are pretty cute in their own way. So check out one of those stores. They really do have some stylish options (maybe not in the store, but they should have a catalog they order from).
posted by bluefly at 5:29 AM on July 15, 2009

I can't recommend Zappos enough here - their search feature allows you to select shoes with a removable footbed which accommodates orthotics while generally allowing you to wear the same size shoe and the free two-way shipping allow you to try different brands risk-free.

I suggest two options: 1. Try Keens - many orthotic-friendly styles, and they're sporty, stylish and comfortable - socks optional. The Newport is a Keen sandal/water shoe that's well-ventilated; it doesn't appear to have a removable footbed, but I was thinking of trying it a half-size larger. [The Monterey appears to be an orthotic-friendly alternative with better ventilation] 2. Wear Danskos when you have to go without orthotics - they have much better than average support, and the Lolita style is as sandal as they come while being strappy enough to stay on your foot.
posted by deliriouscool at 5:56 AM on July 15, 2009

I just got a pair of Teva Dozers. They might work from a functional standpoint. They're more enclosed than typical sandals, so the orthotic wouldn't slide around too much (and wouldn't be very visible). I'm wearing them now, and it seems like I could fit an orthotic under my foot, especially if I loosened the velcro strap a bit. I'm a man, so I can't speak to whether or not they would be a good fashion choice ;) And I didn't get the pink and brown that I linked to!

I don't know if you have an Off Broadway Shoes near you, but I just got mine there for $45 (instead of the $65 at Zappos).
posted by diogenes at 6:44 AM on July 15, 2009

Seconding Keens - when I was recovering from a broken ankle and living in a brace my Keens worked really well. Not dressy enough to be really dressed up but significantly better and cooler than sneakers or other closed shoes - and cute!
posted by leslies at 6:55 AM on July 15, 2009

I know that many Naots have removable insoles, so you might try those. Some do look like glorified Birkenstocks, but others are very nice.

One caveat: many styles are fairly narrow. I wear a pretty solid women's 9.5 (generally a 40 or 41 depending on the style) but not typically actual wide-width shoes, and in Naots I ended up in a 42 because the length was iffy in a 41 but the width was unbearable. I have NEVER been a 42.

They used to have men's shoes, too, but maybe I'm just not seeing them on Zappo's.
posted by Madamina at 9:44 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

What about mesh/sporty shoes for summer? I have a pair of these J 41 shoes (Aquarius style) with my orthotics, and they work really well.
posted by Maarika at 10:04 AM on July 15, 2009

As Madamina says, many Naots have removable insoles, which can be a great way to hide an orthotic. Birkenstock also makes a few styles with removable insoles, some of which might work for you. I'd recommend going to a serious "comfort shoe" store, and asking them. I used to work at that type of shoe store, and we could almost always find a pair of shoes to accommodate orthotics. There are definitely other brands that do this, but I've been out of the industry so long that my knowledge is pretty out of date.

Your profile doesn't list a location; if you're in New England, try J.L. Coombs. If you're not, try to find a place that works closely with reps from the brands and really educates their employees. The Walking Co. tries to pass itself off as this kind of store, but it's really not-- you can get great shoes there, but their employees aren't fitting experts.
posted by dizziest at 10:15 AM on July 15, 2009

I have been able to fit my heel raise into my crocs - I didn't think it would stick in but it has OK and it doesn't show even at the back...
posted by LyzzyBee at 9:12 AM on July 18, 2009

Response by poster: A follow-up... I went to a local comfort shoe specialty store (The Wooly Mammoth in Seattle, WA) and tried a couple of Naots. It seems my orthotics might be too wide for them. :( I also tried them in my Merrell winter clogs and they were too wide and too tall at the heel which means they are also probably too wide for J-41, Privo and Merrell summer styles. The shoe search has become desperate and I am close to just going to a local shoe repair shop the good folks at Wooly Mammoth told me about (Swanson's) to see if they can replicate my orthotics in the cork footbed of a pair of my Birkenstocks. It's worth a try! I used to work for Birkenstock and have about 30 pairs, so one sacrificial pair won't hurt my comfort shoe supply too badly...

I've also been reading that El Natura Lista have a few styles that accommodate orthotics. Just FYI!

Thank you for all the help and I'll post back if I find out anything else.
posted by raintea at 6:18 PM on July 19, 2009

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