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Best Flip Flops for Plantar Fasciitis: The Most Comfortable Thong Sandals for Heel Pain
Many podiatrists tell patients with plantar fasciitis to stay away from flip-flops, period. That's generally good advice: Most thong sandals frankly worsen this painful foot condition. There's a reason they're called "flip-flops" - they don't provide much support and are meant for more casual standing or strolling, not serious walking.
There are some select sandals, however, that are recommended by the American Podiatric Medical Association or that are built with features - like a contoured footbed with arch support - that are less traumatizing to an injured plantar fascia. A well-designed pair of flip-flop sandals can be a great alternative to going barefoot, which doctors advise against for people with the heel pain from this type of foot injury. One example of smart usage is if you have a properly supportive waterproof pair to wear in the shower and poolside.
This article is based on my own experiences with having plantar fasciitis for almost two decades and my research into the most helpful shoes for plantar fasciitis. (My plantar fasciitis is now under control and I haven't had symptoms of recurrence for years.)
Do You Have Plantar Fasciitis and Wear Thong Sandals?
Which flip flops or thong sandals have helped your heel pain or plantar fasciitis?
General Precautions With Foot and Heel Pain
The APMA (American Podiatric Medical Association) has specific recommendations to prevent undue pain while wearing your average non-therapeutic flip-flops:
- Flip-flops are for casual wear while standing or strolling. Don't wear them for long walks or high impact athletic activities. Compared to other sandals, they have less arch support and shock absorption and offer virtually no ankle support, which puts greater stress on the feet.
- Flex the flip flops to make sure they bend at the ball of the foot, allowing for a natural stride. Too much flexibility, though, is bad - the sandal should be stiff enough that it doesn't fold over itself.
- Flip-flops should fit as regular shoes do - your heel shouldn't lie beyond the heel of the sandal.
- Replace the sandals when they are worn.
- Get ones made of soft leather. Leather tends to irritate the skin of the foot less than some of the harder, non-stretchy, harsher man-made materials. By minimizing blisters and chafing, you can walk more comfortably and evenly.
Best Thong Sandals Manufacturers for Plantar Fasciitis
Look to the brands that make thong sandals with good arch support and optimally contoured footbeds, such as Birkenstock (who makes the Gizeh, Ramses, Sparta, and Luxor models, all thong sandals), Crocs (see the Athens and Modi sandals), and Merrell (Moab, Mimosa, and Genoa sandal for women).
Or better yet, look for a model of sandal approved by a professional team of podiatrists for providing optimal support for the feet. Some flip-flops or thong footwear currently bearing this APMA Seal of Acceptance include:
Flip Flops With Arch Support
Sole Platinum Sandals - Flip Flops for Plantar Fasciitis
Sole is truly a star in the arch support department. I've owned several of their removable insoles and used them religiously at the height of my pain, as they can be heat-molded to customize to the foot. But though they started out manufacturing insoles, they've long-since expanded into sandals. They produce several types of thong sandals with orthopedic footbeds that mold to the feet for men and women. There are the Platinum Sandals, the Casual Flips and Sport Flips, and Sport Slides.
The Platinum Sandals, which Sole has designed specifically for people with plantar fasciitis in mind, have an added metatarsal support pad. The arch support can be adjusted to your arch. The straps are designed to accommodate the particular idiosyncrasies of women's and men's feet. Sole thong sandals are accepted by the APMA.
Sole Sandals for PF
Chaco Sandals for Plantar Fasciitis
Chaco is another brand of sandalmaker that makes sandals with extreme cushioning and serious arch support and has the APMA seal of acceptance.
I have some non-thong sandals by Chaco that I love - strappy sandals that come in wide width and that do have a ring strap around the big toe - and that don't aggravate my plantar fasciitis. I also once bought boots from Chaco - very well made, but I had to return them because they were too narrow.
Chaco sandals are famous for their adjustable straps. It can take a bit of trial and error before you find the length that works, but taking the time to adjust the strap makes all the difference in how their sandals fit. Although I wore my Chacos a lot, I never completely adjusted to them and had to frequently bend down to adjust the section around the big toe, which would tighten over the course of the day. That was years ago, though, and they may have worked out some of the bugs in the fit since then.
Chaco Flip Flop Sandals
Orthaheel Flip Flops for Plantar Fasciitis - Women and Men
Orthaheel flip flops were designed by podiatrist Phillip Vasyli from Australia to restore neutral alignment to the foot as it strides and help correct the walking problems caused by overpronation and flat arches. They are designed to help with, and recommended for, plantar fasciitis and the heel pain associated with it. They are lightweight, flexible, thick-soled, shock absorbing, stable, and according to the manufacturer, come with a Walk Pain Free Guarantee.
The flip flops should be fit snugly so that you can just manage to slide your index finger under the upper strap. These can be a good alternative to going barefoot, which is not recommended for plantar fasciitis.
Orthaheel Sandals, Men's and Women's Styles
FitFlop Flip Flop Sandals for Women and Men
FitFlops were launched in the UK in 2007 and have been on the market a while now. They have had many testimonials from customers that these flip flops have helped women and men with plantar fasciitis. (Upon checking the link that I had set up here, the testimonials appear to have been moved or removed on their revamped website, so I can't link to them here anymore. But I saw 'em - I know I did!) They have EVA footbeds and rubber outsoles.
Particularly popular is the FitFlop Walkstar III Thong Sandal, with a leather strap, for women. Other cute flip flop sandals include the Chada, Electra, Oasis, and Walkstar Classic Thong.
Note: The flip flop sandals were designed to encourage leg muscle and gluteal muscle use. Because of this, people needing serious stabilizers in a flip flop may not find these suitable.
Birkenstock Thong Sandals With Arch Support - Kairo, Gizeh, Sparta, Luxor, Ramses
Birkenstock, out of Germany, is well known for making quality sandals with contoured cork footbeds in both leather and man-made materials.
Although I personally don't wear flip flops, the words "plantar fasciitis sandals" mean Birkenstocks to me. I wore Birkenstocks for my plantar fasciitis whenever it flared up - usually the Florida style, which is not a thong but a three-strap sandal that is kind of flip-floppy. The sandals generally come in regular width (wide) or narrow width. Some styles come in a medium width that's somewhere between the two.
Some of the more popular Birkenstock thong sandals or flip flops include:
Birkenstock Sandals for Plantar Fasciitis
Crocs Athens Thong Sandal for Women and Men
Among many customer reviews for the Crocs Athens Thong Sandal, I found a few reviews from people who specifically mentioned they had plantar fasciitis. This thong sandal has extra cushioning in the contoured footbed, extra arch support, and comes in whole sizes and medium width.
Any Other Suggestions?
So those are my suggestions, as someone who has had plantar fasciitis but is not a healthcare professional. Do you have any other recommendations? And PLEASE - after years of maintaining this web page, I ask you NOT to post recommendations in the comments if you are a shoe manufacturer or anyone representing one or hired by them to provide "real" reviews. My readership is interested in objective advice from people who are speaking from direct, personal experience with plantar fasciitis and thong sandals. Thanks!
The author is not a medical professional, and the recommendations in this article should not be taken as medical advice. The author received no freebies in this review. View the author's statement regarding compensation for this article.