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Enhance Your Stride: The Science Behind Sandals With Arch Support

by Mark Paigen 11 minute read


The Basics

  • Arch support sandals promote foot health, reduce pain, and improve balance and gait.
  • Anatomical design considerations should be taken into account when choosing arch support sandals.
  • Sandal materials such as rubber outsoles and polyurethane midsoles offer durability, traction, and cushioning.
  • Sandals with arch support improve posture and alignment, promoting musculoskeletal health, balance, and stability while avoiding common medical issues.
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    Table of Contents

    If you’re moderately active, you probably average 7,000 steps a day, meaning you can look forward to two hundred million steps over the course of your life! That’s probably why people have been searching for years for ways to enhance their stride and improve footwear comfort.

    Now, thanks to the science behind sandals with arch support, that perfect fit is within reach.

    Having been immersed in creating functional footwear for decades, I'm well equipped to show you how these sandals can help you get the most out of every step.

    Today, we’ll learn about:

    • The fascinating science behind good arch support 
    • Why the foot and proper arch support are the lynch pin for alignment, balance, and health
    • What characteristics and materials to look for in great arch support sandals

    Why Does the Science Matter for Your Feet?

    I’m sure you’re no stranger to buying a pair of sandals that seemed comfortable at first, only to have you limping home after a day of wear. It’s likely that the shoes weren’t designed with the science of how your feet work in mind.

    When considering your options for comfortable sandals for men or women, the science truly matters. Science-based design factors in:

    • Arch support needed to maintain proper alignment and reduce stress on the foot joints
    • Anatomic design that adjusts the shape and proportion of the sandal to the contours of your foot
    • Lightweight materials used to provide cushioning support, breathability and traction; for example, microfiber suede and rubber

    While the three considerations above seem simple enough, remember, no two feet are the same; two people with fallen arches can respond in radically different ways to the same orthopedic footwear.

    In fact, a recent meta study on what constitutes footwear comfort concluded that comfort in footwear is both complex and multifaceted. It also found that the most comfortable shoes are ones that are well-fitted and lightweight with soft midsoles and curved rocker soles.

    Now, if that isn’t a description of Tread Labs’ ridiculously comfortable Women’s Albion Sandal and Men’s Albion Sandal, I don’t know what is.

    Let’s dig a little deeper into the science of foot health and arch support.

    What Are the Benefits of Proper Arch Support?

    As a footwear biomechanics expert with nearly 30 years in the game of functional footwear, I can tell you that arch support sandals are one of the best ways to promote foot health. 

    And, the science is there to back it up.

    A recent study, in which runners tested EVA athletic shoe inserts, found that higher arch support resulted in less pressure exerted on the midline and rear parts of the runners’ feet.

    What’s the impact of reduced pressure in real life situations?

    It means that arch support can provide plantar fasciitis relief and ease the pain that comes with spending too much time on your feet or overexerting them in your active lifestyle.

    Definition: Plantar fasciitis refers to pain on the bottom of your foot, around your heel, or your arch.

    Whether you’re an athlete, or you simply spend a lot of time on your feet working or walking, there are benefits you can reap from arch support.

    These benefits include:

    • Proper support for your feet that reduces excess pressure on muscles and joints
    • Relief from fatigue and foot pain caused by poor alignment
    • Improved balance and gait resulting in better overall movement
    • Enhanced cushioning and shock absorption for your feet

    In short, when it comes to promoting foot health, arch support is indispensable.

    So, what science goes into proper arch support design?

    How Anatomical Design Considerations Reinforce Arch Support

    Men's Covelo Sandal from Tread Labs

    Earlier we mentioned that anatomical design considerations are essential in footwear that allows you to move well. The goal is a shoe that molds to the complex anatomy and contours of the foot.

    Thanks to years of experience developing semi-custom, medical-grade insoles, we’ve distilled the winning combination of anatomical design features that deliver the support of custom-made orthotics—without the cost.

    • Arch support contour: Proper foot arch support takes into account various misalignment challenges people face. This means a high enough arch to prevent overpronation and a pronounced heel cup to keep the foot aligned over the foot bed.

    • Adaptable material: The material used for arch support needs to be firm, yet flexible and comfortable, distributing weight evenly across the foot. With the Albion and Covela sandals, ultra lightweight polyurethane midsoles make them lightweight yet firm with flexibility that molds to the foot.

    • Performance-oriented stability: Research has shown that running on over-cushioned shoes actually puts more pressure on your foot. Instead of walking on a marshmallow, you want a balance of soft but firm midsoles to ease pressure on your joints.

    • Secure and adjustable uppers: Adjustable straps hold your foot firmly in place, ensuring even support and weight distribution on the foot bed. They also reduce the risk of excessive supination or pronation that can result from overcorrecting a wobbly stance.

      Additionally, 3D knit uppers in Tread Labs’ comfortable sandals for women and men make the support more snug and flexible.

    • Breathable performance: Why wear sandals at all? They’re like a supportive athletic shoe with the top down. Arch support flip flops keep your toes cool and give them room to spread out, which is crucial for their health.

    In a nutshell, you're looking for all the contouring, stability, and performance of an athletic shoe with the breathability of a sandal. 

    Finding the perfect arch support sandal may take some trial and error. Don't be afraid to experiment with different styles until you find one that makes your stride more efficient while keeping your feet healthy and comfortable.

    Our Men’s Albion Sandal and Women’s Albion Sandal are a great place to start.

    It’s basically like they took an orthotic insole and built a sandal around it. The straps are surprisingly comfortable too.
    - C., Los Altos, United States

    What’s the Winning Combo for Sandal Material and Construction?

    arrowhead design on Men’s Albion Sandal from Tread Labs

    Arch support doesn’t stop at anatomical considerations. The materials and construction used play an equal part in articulating the shape and proportion of a design.

    As we mentioned earlier, lightweight materials are a crucial component. As backpackers say, “A pound on the feet is equal to five on the back.” 

    Let’s delve deeper into the reasoning behind Tread Labs’ sandal design:

    • Rubber soles: Rubber is a naturally shock-absorbing material that provides a firm base for the contoured support of polyurethane midsoles. It’s also slip resistant, reinforcing stability as you move. We love that it’s a durable material that allows for resoling, so you can get the most out of your sandals.
    • Arrowhead design: This design consists of a pattern on the sole that resembles an arrowhead. It creates additional contact points with the ground, providing improved traction and stability, particularly on uneven surfaces. It can also help to disperse impact, thus reducing the risk of injury.
    • Polyurethane midsoles: They mimic EVA and provide a bouncy feel when walking or running. Yet they’re firm enough to offer excellent shock absorption, cushioning, and energy return—the ideal combination for high arch support shoes.
    • Microfiber suede: Keeps the footbed smooth, cool, and comfortable for long wear on hot days as it wicks moisture away.
    • Direct attach construction: The 3D knit uppers of the sandals are fused directly to the rubber sole ensuring a clean and simple construction. It also makes the sandal water friendly, allowing you to be free and water ready in your adventures.
    • No waste: Rubber is a durable material that can withstand wear and tear, and supports resoling. This reduces the environmental impact of the sandal. The 3D cut knit uppers are also created from recycled polyester fibers and leave no fabric clippings.

    It's also important to consider how adjustable the footbed is. Those prone to pronation or supination might benefit from added adjustability to support their feet and avoid overcompensation when walking or running.

    Together, all of these factors point to arch support sandals that offer both stability and comfort during your daily activities. 

    I was looking for a sports sandal that had good arch support, would not abrade the sole of my foot, and was suitable for daily walks or easy hiking in summer. These sandals meet my needs.
    Judith C., Phoenix, United States

    What Are the Pillars of a Healthy Stride and Their Connection to Arch Support?

    The four pillars of foot health are alignment, mobility, strength, and stability. Your feet form a feedback loop with your lower body, where they impact the alignment of the lower body which in turn affects foot alignment.

    What does that mean in simpler terms?

    If your feet and ankles tilt inwards (pronation) or outwards (supination), your lower back, pelvis, hips, and legs get thrown out of whack, further destabilizing the feet. 

    It’s a vicious cycle.

    According to a sample study on 35 men and women, any abnormal movement in the foot causes a chain of misalignment in the lower body. 

    In order to fix alignment, stability and mobility need to be reinforced with good arch support, which starts with the foot. 

    Why We Build on the Anatomy of the Foot

    Did you know your foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, and over one hundred tendons, ligaments, and muscles connecting them? It’s a wonder of biomechanics.

    Your stride, step, and even the act of standing are a result of the complex play between these hundreds of moving parts. 

    Working in tandem, the joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles allow your foot to perform its various functions:

    • Shock absorption when your heel strikes the ground
    • Stability to support the weight of the body
    • Propulsion to create the forward momentum of your stride
    • Adaptability to changes in the ground’s surface and maintaining balance

    illustration showing heel strike

    In all of this complexity, the arch of the foot, like a bridge or suspension system, plays an important role in:

    • Absorbing shock, thus preventing damage to the foot
    • Distributing weight evenly across the whole foot
    • Creating a spring-like reaction that helps to propel us forward

    So, what happens when you destabilize the bridge?

    Improper footwear, weight fluctuation, injury, age, and genetics can all contribute to poor arch support. 

    A misaligned arch can then lead to plantar fasciitis, overpronation, supination, and pain in the leg, hips, or back.

    illustration showing overpronation

    Here is a brief video explanation of what overpronation is:

    So how does one regain and strengthen that alignment and stability?

    How Arch Support Improves Alignment, Balance, and Stability

    One of the first things that comes to mind when you think about balance and stability is older adults who are prone to loss of balance and falls. 

    While deterioration caused by age does impact balance and stability, it’s not the only cause. 

    A huge part of our ability to maintain balance and stability rests in the health and integrity of our feet and all the components working together. This matters even for people whose feet are in the normal arch range.

    A recent study found that shoe inserts for flat feet effectively stabilized standing balance for both flat-footed and normal-footed participants.

    Additionally, improved foot pressure while walking can also help improve posture by reducing the strain and tightness in the lower back, hips, and legs. With improved posture comes less fatigue and improved breathing.

    Better stability and balance result in:

    • Improved foot alignment and reduced strain on tendons and ligaments, meaning a balanced stride
    • Less fatigue typically caused by overcompensating
    • Improved posture, plus a reduced risk of injury and long-term damage
    • Better gait, control over movements, and a more comfortable walking experience
    • Increased cushioning that reduces the impact of walking, allowing for greater mobility and less pain

    Beyond balance and alignment, we love that the open design and cushioning effect of arch support sandals, like our Women's Albion Sandal, help keep the feet in a natural position and reduce any pressure points that can lead to misalignment of the ankles, knees, or hips. 

    A few of the colors that this sandal is available in can be seen in the table below:

    Women's Albion Sandal—Deep


    Women's Albion Sandal—Black


    Women's Albion Sandal—Leaf


    This helps to ensure that our bodies stay properly aligned while engaging in activities like walking, running, or cycling.

    Plus, thanks to their arch support and straps, the sandals help stabilize and keep the feet in correct alignment, even when standing still. The easy slip-on feature of the Women’s Covelo Sandal is just the icing on the cake.

    These sandals are available in multiple colors, three of which you can see in the table below:

    Women's Covelo Sandal—Rock


    Women's Covelo Sandal—Lagoon


    Women's Covelo Sandal—Fire


    All these features make sandals with arch support an easy solution for improving our overall posture and alignment, which are key to promoting musculoskeletal health and preventing common foot conditions.

    How Arch Support Sandals Help to Prevent Common Foot Conditions

    We’ve discussed how the lower spine, pelvis, legs, and feet all form an alignment loop piggy-backing off one another. 

    Ensuring their alignment through proper arch support can greatly impact your overall health and help prevent common conditions.

    According to one study, one in five adults have flat feet. The same study also found that flat feet are often associated with weight issues, pain, fatigue, and even the risk of diabetes.

    Sandals with arch support play an important role in providing everyday foot support, which:

    • Helps to prevent musculoskeletal disorders, such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis
    • Improves posture and reduces lower limb fatigue
    • Evenly distributes our body weight and thereby reduces the strain on our joints

    Level up Your Stride With Tread Labs Arch Support Sandals

    Your feet are the uncelebrated heroes of alignment, posture, balance, and stability. With proper arch support for your feet, you can ease the symptoms of fallen arches or high arches and prevent medical conditions such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.

    Did You Know? Plantar fasciitis is sometimes referred to as policeman’s heel because of the time policemen spend on their feet.

    At Tread Labs, we’ve put the years and science into ensuring our ridiculously comfortable arch support sandals are lightweight, versatile, water-ready, and supportive enough to carry you through life.

    Let Tread Labs be your support and help you and your feet thrive. Shop our comfortable arch support sandals today.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the science behind the different types of arch support in sandals?

    The science behind arch support in sandals involves understanding the biomechanics of the foot and how they interact with the ground during various activities.

    • Flat feet require more firm arch support to prevent overpronation, which can lead to foot pain and injuries.
    • High arches require more even support along the whole foot and deeper heel cups to avoid applying too much pressure to the heel or the toes.
    • High performance arch support for athletes or active folks should be quite firm to cushion the feet and lower body against the impact of running, jumping, or walking.

    Is there scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of sandals with arch support?

    Yes, there is scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of sandals with arch support. A randomized study of 150 participants found that arch support sandals work as well as custom insoles do in providing plantar heel pain relief

    Additionally, research shows that arch support sandals can help reverse abnormalities in walking caused by flat footedness, increasing both foot flexibility and range of motion.

    How does the foot's structure impact the need for arch support in sandals?

    If an individual has a low arch (flat feet) or a high arch, they may require additional arch support to help maintain proper foot alignment and lower the risk of issues like plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis. 

    The use of arch support in sandals can help improve foot posture, reduce pain and discomfort, and improve overall foot function by providing additional cushioning and support to the arch.

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