Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Smarter Sandal For The Summer

The convenience of sandals (a.k.a flip-flops) might encourage people to walk around more in the summer, but too much of a good thing might not be for the best. The problem isn't in the walking. It's in the sandals.

When most people buy sandals, they generally pick up the cheapest pair that fits their feet, unless they purchased fan flip-flops when they were popular a few years ago. There are big problems built into many of them, specifically those spongy soles, which gives the foot more roll than usual.

While the sponginess is supposed to help reduce the shock of walking, the additional roll from the outside of the foot to the inside can lead to over-pronation. Over time, over-pronation can cause problems in the feet, ankles, calves, knees, and even back because the arch isn't locked in place when it attempts to absorb the shock. Some people end up suffering from more serious symptoms ranging from inflammation and tendonitis to soreness and fatigue.

Nobody ever thinks the sandal could be the cause, because sandals are often the most comfortable shoes people own. In reality, sandals can cause the over-pronation that leads to more problems.

Two medical professionals team up to create a better sandal.  

A couple of years ago, Dr. Andrew Weil wanted to promote walking as a better form of exercise because of its immediate health benefits. Dr. Weil, who is best known for establishing integrative medicine, says it is one of the best forms of exercise available.

"Our bodies are meant to move. And if we don't move, we're at great risk for developing a lot of complaints that are common in older people, aches and pains," he said. "Maintaining activity throughout life improves every aspect of life, physical and mental."

But he also stresses the importance of proper footwear. So he teamed with Phillip Vasyli, the Australian podiatrist who introduced Orthaheel in 1991, to create better sandals and shoes. Along with Orthaheel, Vasyli added what he calls Aided Motion System (AMS), which consists of three design features.

In addition to the Orthaheel, AMS includes Tri-Planar Motion Control to address excess rotation while walking. It's the excess rotation that gives the foot and ankle a curvature and misaligns the leg all the way to the knee.

Basically, this design maintains the straightness of the foot from the heel to the front of the foot, keeping it aligned with the knee. Without support, the foot is more inclined to roll inward.

Another feature of the design is the 1st Ray Flexor Zone, which gives the sandal more flexibility in key areas as the foot pushes down. In other words, it provides the sandal with a natural bend as opposed to facing resistance and jamming up the toe as people walk.

Two women's sandals and one men's sandal incorporate the integrative design. 

The first sandal style is the Restore (above), made of a recycled rubber outsole and leather upper. The soft leather straps are set back further than some sandals, minimizing the gap between the heel and cradle of the sandal.

Interestingly enough, it is the gap between the heel and the cradle that earned the sandals their dubious nickname flip-flop, referring to the smacking sound they made when the heel and cradle would reconnect.

The second design, Spirit II (upper right), has all the same benefits but in a more formal sandal design with two buckle straps. This design specifically reduces the friction that is sometimes associated with flip-flops at the toe because the strap placement redistributes the weight of the sandal more evenly over the foot.

Although Dr. Weil hasn't developed as many options for men, the footwear line recently introduced the Compass (lower right). This design is similar to the Restore, but with the arch of the straps pushed back on the top of the foot and slightly behind the heel, removing any pressure off the toe and reducing the traditional flip-flop drag.

Integration Footwear by Dr. Weil Imprints 8.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Sandals and Southern California have always gone together, especially at the beach. It's easy to slip them off in the sand. In terms of comfort, I like the Compass sandal better than any other flip-flop because they cradle the feet instead of slapping up against them without being trendy like Birkenstocks.

For women, the Restore (about $79) and the Spirit II (about $100) are available at PlanetShoes. They are sold in black, brown, and natural (gray in the Restore line). Sizes typically range between 6-11, but some Restore sizes might not be available as the outlet is clearing the line. While the men's sandals haven't been added at PlanetShoes, they are available direct for about $95. Sizes range from 7-13. PlanetShoes also carries Integration Footwear with the same design technologies too.
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