NEW YORK – Dr. Seema Ram-Charitar’s pick for the summer’s ideal comfort shoes is Birkenstock sandals.

She knows they’re not the most fashionable choice. She knows that the Prada-clad clientele who come to her New York podiatric practice haven’t worn them since their college days. She knows that more than a few people even call them ugly.

But the cork footbed will conform to your foot over time for the perfect fit.

Short of that, Ram-Charitar recommends choosing shoes with a roomy toe box, shock-absorbent soles and a 1-inch heel. “If we want to stay active, preserve our joints, we have to preserve our feet – that’s our mobility.”

She says that very few people start off with perfect feet, with the most common issues being either flat feet or high arches. So shoes have to compensate.

“If we’re talking about dressier shoes, high heels are terrible for you, but people still love them.”

An entirely flat footbed can be problematic, too, especially for people who have flat feet, she says. “In terms of alignment, the foot is connected to the knee and, ultimately, the hip and back. A flat throws it off. … The reason our feet have an arch is that our foot functions better in an arched position.”

That makes choosing flip-flops or ballet slippers a bit more complicated than you might think. Some shoes, while keeping their flat heels, have put more arch support into the footbed, Ram-Charitar says, while others are indeed adding a bit of a heel.

Still, the thong between the toes can create friction and contribute to heel fissures (cracked heels) because the fat under the heel has room to expand.

Backless mules have another potential problem: toes need to curl with each step to keep them on.

No matter the shape or style, though, the most important factor in choosing good-for-your-feet comfortable shoes is fit, “There really should be no such thing as breaking them in. A shoe shouldn’t hurt from the start.”

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