By Lou Carlozo, Green Dad columnist for dealnews
Memorial Day weekend signals the start of summer, so it's high time to get out and walk everywhere to reduce your carbon footprint. And if you're anything like me, you'll want to spend the whole summer in sandals.
The right pair of sandals can provide years of good summer memories. I kept a pair of Timberlands for close to a decade before they finally gave out on the hiking trails of Cinque Terre in Italy. After that, I bought a pair of Bass closed-toe sandals I've had ever since — and which I'd gladly recommend to you, except the line was discontinued years ago.
Still, Green Dad has plenty of resources at his toe tips for recommending great sandal deals, and ways to pick a pair that's just right for you. Many factors come into play, from fashion to foot support, and you can buy them in materials ranging from leather to recycled truck tires. Read on, and you might just land a few bargains that'll put extra spring into your step.
1) Go for great arch support. At its most utilitarian level, sandals are all about making your feet feel great while you walk. Arch support is crucial because no matter how good that pair looks on you, they won't do you much good if they don't nurture your feet. About.com rates the Chaco Z/2 Unaweep as one of its Top seven walking sandals based on its formidable combo of arch support, traction and motion control. Check out the latest prices, and you'll see you can snag a pair of these for just $56 from outdoorplay.
2) Look for durability. While that may sound like a given, sandals have the potential to fall apart quickly if they're not constructed of the right materials. So I'm impressed on that score, as well as for eco friendliness, by Cambodian-made rubber-tire sandals. These shoes have an interesting history, as they first became popular during the Vietnam War era when shoe materials were scarce, but discarded rubber from truck tires was plentiful. These can be hard to find, and you will need to adjust the straps with pliers to get the right fit. We suggest trying Green Soul Shoes, which donates a pair of sandals to a child in need with every pair you purchase. Some sandals also come with lifetime guarantees, which can also save you a lot in the long run.
3) Pick the right footwear for the environment. Birkenstocks are beloved by city dwellers, and no wonder; they're a simple, classy mix of leather, suede and delicious heel cups that hug your feet like your favorite socks. But chances are you wouldn't want to take these sandals out for some serious trail hiking, as they tend to get stained and smelly. About.com places the Birkenstock Arizona as number five on its list, and you can find good deals on them at Amazon.com.
4) Consider trusted brands for all-around performance. The British non-profit Walking.org has weighed in on its Top five sandals, and it rates the Teva Terra Fi 2 as the best performance sandal, noting that the brand has been a leader for more than 20 years: "They are designed to be used in water or on land, featuring the patented Teva strapping system, a fully-adjustable padded heel as well as moisture wicking comfort and anti-microbial protection." You can find these Tevas, which come with a one-year warranty, on sale now at Amazon.com.
5) You can still find great deals on sandals in summer. Unlike other seasonal commodities that go up in price once their time in the spotlight arrives, sandals can still be landed for cheap. We have listed this special at REI, which covers sandals and a whole lot more, for 32% to 71% off during the Mega Deals Sale. And this link (also listed above) will take you to an entire page of sandal bargains, dealnews style. And if you've got your eye on a special pair and are looking for a more affordable alternative, check out some of our sandal swap suggestions.
6) If you have heel pain, choose a pair for its orthotic construction. Plantar fascists is a common condition where heel pain results from irregular stretching of ligaments, leading to tears and inflammation. The inventive folks at Hammacher Schlemmer have created a waterproof sandal for $60 that combats the condition with a stabilizing orthotic foot bed that realigns the foot to a neutral position. Shock-absorbing EVA foot beds provide arch support while aligning the feet into a natural position for those who over-pronate--when the heel bone angles inward--a determining factor in the development of plantar fasciitis. Purists might balk that these babies look more like flip-flops, but they look a lot more comfortable to me. What's more, Hammacher claims that medical studies have confirmed the benefits of these sandals.
7) Sometimes, flip-flops will do just fine. I'm not the biggest fan of flip-flops, but I have sensitive feet that go bananas when the strap digs into the web of my big toe. But that doesn't mean that flip-flops won't do the job for you; think of them as a practical companion to sandals that are better suited for stepping into beach shower stalls, or tooling around in your vacation bungalow. The Dockers Men's Flip-flops look way sporty, and you can score them for less than $10 by clicking here.
8) When all else fails, make your own. While I'm sure the Great Recession has made DIY everything more popular these days, it may surprise you to learn that yes, you can make your own sandals. Ehow.com shows you the way in five steps, using blown-out car or truck tires, a chisel and a hand-held drill for starters. I love environmental savvy behind this idea, and it might be just the ticket if you'd rather spend some more time in the summer sun, and less at a crowded shopping mall.