There’s no better feeling than sliding into a pair of sandals that have broken in to fit your feet perfectly. It’s the feeling of summer, of going to the beach, of truly kicking back and relaxing. The trouble is, by the time you get your favorite sandals to that point, they often don’t have much life left in them. That’s why you need to be sure you’re picking out high-quality sandals in the first place—and taking great care of them to prolong their life span.
As you’re shopping for your next pair of sandals, the following tips will help you choose the right ones for you—and keep them looking good and performing well for years.
Choosing Quality Sandals That Will Go the Distance
The first step in helping your sandals live a long lifespan is choosing a high-quality pair in the first place. If you’ve ever grabbed a cheap pair of flip flops at a convenience or big box store, you know the shortcomings of flimsy, unsupportive footwear: blisters between your toes and on the tops of your feet, aching arches, and the real threat, as Jimmy Buffet famously sings, of a flip flop blowout, whether a pop-top is involved are not. Not only will these cheapies fall apart way faster than high-quality sandals, but they’ll also be mighty uncomfortable until that happens.
When you’re in the market for a pair of sandals, be sure to check the sole. Is it thick and durable so you can navigate a wide variety of surfaces—from the beach to the sidewalk—without wearing through? Does it have a little bit of give when you bend it? Next, pay attention to the straps. Are they sturdy and well-made so that they won’t tear or fall apart (but still are soft enough to be comfortable)?
Keep an eye on the footbed, too. Look for sandals that provide some arch support and also a heel cup. Sure, you can walk to the end of the driveway in sandals with totally flat footbeds, but some structure under your foot is necessary to cover long distances comfortably. Whether you’re strolling on the sand or walking around town, a lack of arch support can cause significant foot fatigue. Check to insure that the main ingredient of the outsole is actually rubber and not EVA. This will give you the safety of walking on a wet surface without fear of slipping, sliding and possibly falling down,
One indicator of quality, of course, is price. A $5 pair of drugstore flip flops won’t have the same craftsmanship as a pair of sandals that rings up at $40 or more. The steeper price indicates better quality materials like leather, vegan leather, or neoprene, rather than cheap plastic, which won’t last nearly as long.
Caring for Your Sandals
Once you’ve picked out your pair of sandals, it’s time to think about maintenance. One key component in extending their longevity is never letting them get too grungy. Whenever you return from an outing at the beach—where your footwear has likely been exposed to sand and saltwater—give your sandals a quick rinse with fresh water. (If they’re made of leather, wipe them off with a damp cloth instead.)
Do Deep Cleaning the Right Way
When it’s time for a deep clean, the best method depends on the sandal materials.
When you start to notice a buildup of gunk on your leather sandals, it’s time to give them a serious cleaning. Use a dry, soft cloth or a brush with soft bristles to gently scrub away dirt that has accumulated. Once your shoes are clear of debris, give them a little TLC by polishing with leather-friendly saddle soap. (There are tons of leather conditioners out there, but saddle soap works just as well and is a more economical option.)
Sandals with nylon straps and neoprene linings are fantastic for long days at the beach because they dry quickly, and saltwater won’t easily damage them. Unfortunately, they tend to hold onto smells longer than sandals made of many other materials, so you need to be on the lookout for that telltale wet neoprene smell. If you rinse the linings after you’ve worn them, it will go a long way toward preventing odor. You can also opt for some neoprene wash, which is sold at many surf shops. It’s intended for wetsuits but works well on any neoprene item. Follow the directions on the label to get those neoprene sandals squeaky-clean. At Scott Hawaii, we even recommend throwing them in the washing machine in cold soapy water and then let air dry, but definitely not in the dryer.
As with other non-leather shoes, rubber sandals benefit greatly from regular post-adventure rinsings. When they start to smell a little funky, wash them gently with soap and water. If that doesn’t reduce odors, use a specialized sandal wash to clear out the bacteria without leaving harmful chemicals behind.
Storing Your Sandals
To lengthen the life of your sandals, be sure to keep them dry when you’re not wearing them. Also, avoid heading outdoors in sandals that are already wet because you’ll speed up wear and tear. In a hurry to get that footwear dry quickly? Ball up some newspaper and tuck it under the straps—this will seriously speed up the process. If possible, store your sandals indoors in a cool, dry place, particularly if you live somewhere humid. Over time, that damp air can really take a toll on the sandal’s materials. Finally, beware overuse, too: If you wear sandals just about every day, stock up on a couple of pairs and rotate them, so you’ll always have dry (and/or clean) ones available. Also, avoid leaving your sandals in direct summer sun for long periods of time as this may cause the softer parts of the sole to shrink and warp, ruining your favorite sandal.
Whether you’re spending a vacation at the beach or just strolling around downtown on a relaxing weekend, a sandal blowout or foot fatigue (or both) can put a real damper on your day. And while choosing a pair of high-quality sandals is a must-do for getting your summer adventures off on the right foot, with some proper care your footwear can (and should) go the distance for years.
Written by Emma Walker for Matcha in partnership with Scott Hawaii.