By Dave Wilkes
Imagine a thick soled pair of flip-flops that you have worn for years and have completely conformed to your feet. Now add a brand new sole to the bottom (one that looks more like it belongs on a pair of tennis shoes), brand new straps, and a funny little bump in the middle (this is the “metatarsal arch support”). And you get an idea of the Spenco Sandals.
Per the manufactures web page:
Total Support in a slip on sandal
Increased shock absorption, advanced support for the arch and heel, improved motion control to reduce pronation and supination.
Men’s sizing is 7 – 13
NOTE: I refer to the Spenco Total Support Sandal as ‘sandals’ only because that is what the manufacturer calls them. I personally separate flip-flop sandals such as these, from more enclosed footwear (such as what Tevia makes, which I normal call sandals). When the distinction is relevant, I will refer to the Spenco Sandals, and similar footwear, as ‘flip-flop’s’ else I will use the general term sandal.
To be totally honest I don’t think I have ever used any of the Spenco products. I always replace the stock insoles that come with my boots with a 3rd party. To quote a shoe sales person I once met “the insoles [that come with the boots] are good for little more than as a pattern to trim a good pair of insoles.” Why don’t I normally use Spenco insoles? Well they were handy when I first discovered insoles, and I not found a need to experiment beyond the first type I used. However I do see Spenco products in many of the shops and stores I visit and am at least familiar with the products they offer (making it kind of odd that I have never tried them).
When the opportunity came up to try these sandals I jumped at the chance. You see I grew up in Hawaii, and on the rare occasion when I did use footwear, more often than not it was flip-flops (slippers [“slippah”]or Zories as we often called them). I have always loved going barefoot, and sandals are a close second. My wide feet sometimes make it difficult to find a good fit even with sandals, but flip-flops are far easer to find a good fit.
The problem with most flip-flop style sandals is cheep construction, hence the straps break easily (and normally at the worst possible time) and lack of support (more and more of an issue as I get older).
The first time I put on the Spenco PolySorb Total Support Sandal, I was impressed with the excellent fit and how good they felt on my feet. Normally it takes quite a while for a good pair of flip-flops to conform to ones feet and feel as good as these do right out of the box (ok, so they actually come on a hanger, but I am sure you are familiar with the expression). The ‘metatarsal arch support’ took a bit of getting used to. I have never worn footwear with this feature so it felt different, not bad but different. After only wearing the sandals around the house for a little while, it was apparent that I was going to like the fit/feel of these.
My daughter developed a blister while on a school camp trip. Having just received the sandals prior to our departure I brought them with me. Since she had no alternate footwear I suggested she wear the Spenco Sandals. She wore them (despite being far too big, she is a woman’s 8US) the entire next day including for hiking the dirt/rock/gravel trail of Ginkgo Petrified Forest. She said they were quite comfortable.
I anticipate using these for day to day wear (once things warm up a bit) as well as for travel, for canoeing, and most importantly as ‘camp shoes’ while camping and backpacking. Knowing how much I love wearing flip-flops, I will probably hike (and maybe even backpack) in them.
I invite you to follow along with me as I use these (and use them I will). I expect by the end of this summer my wife will be quite sick of seeing me in them and will start begging me to wear something else. I would also invite you to send me your comments, questions and suggestions via the 4AllOutdoors.org Forums.
Update June 13 2010
Ok, so despite an unseasonably cold and wet spring (second wettest May on record), I am reviewing flip-flops?!?! Go figure!
I can tell you that a little cold and wet weather is not going to prevent me from wearing these sandals! It may seem odd to some to see me walking around with a fleece jacket and flip-flops, but I don’t care. The Spenco Total Support Sandals are wonderful. As I stated in my initial installment they fit like I have worn them for years, and the more I wear them the more they conform to the contours of my feet. They provide better support as well as traction than any flip-flop I have ever worn. For me these are the best of both worlds, the ease and comfort of flip-flops with the support and traction of trail shoes.
So far I have worn these on walks around the neighborhood and for yard work, as well as for quick runs to the store, or just out to the driveway get the paper. If I thought I could get away with it, I would wear them to work. When I have worn them to walk through wet grass the textured material did not become slippery, and they dried quickly. The cloth straps are comfortably soft but stiff enough to hold their shape when not being worn, so it is quick and easy to slip into them.
So far, aside from the foot shaped depressions beginning to form, the sandals are showing little signs of wear. The tread on the bottom seem to provide adequate traction on uneven ground as well on wet grass. The foot bed is soft and comfortable, absorbing shock while still providing some support. The most unusual feature of these is the metatarsal arch support, a small bump in the foot bed. I have found this to continue to be noticeable when I wear the sandals. I had originally expected I would either get used to it and not notice it any longer, or they would simply get pressed into the sole and disappear as I broke them in. The reality is that they are still noticeable (visually and by feel) and when I wear them for extended periods, it feels kind of like a continual massage. I kind of like the feeling and wonder why this is not a feature in all shoe inserts.
I have been quite pleased with the comfort and performance of these sandals, and I look forward to seeing how well they stand up to prolonged use. I especially look forward to using these as camp shoes when backpacking, and for extended use during the hot summer months.
I invite you to return in about a month when I will be adding my final installment to this review.
Update July 20 2010
As summer has arrived, I have continued to wear the sandals whenever possible. They are very comfortable and seem to be quite durable. Aside for a few nicks from some lava rocks on Mt. Adams, they are showing very little sign of wear.
I attended my nephew’s wedding where I wore rented dress shoes. I was on my feet most of the day, and danced most of the night. By the time I got back to my hotel room my feet felt like I had just endured a 20mile forced march. I had a few last minute things to take care of so I changed and slipped my feet into the Spenco Support Sandals. WOW, I could not believe how good it felt! I liked these before, but now it is true love. Putting these on provided instant relief for my sore feet and felt like I was getting a mini foot massage.
For my climb of Mt. Adams I carried the sandals as “camp shoes”. They are light enough that I have no qualms about their weight in my pack, and putting them on after a day of trudging through deep wet snow in 90 F temperatures gave my feet a welcome break. When I was a kid, I found that the fastest way to destroy a pair of flip-flops was to wear them on lava rock. The jagged sharp edges would rip them up and trying to navigate the rugged terrain would often result in ripping the strap out of the sandal. However, the Spenco sandals seemed to be up to the task. I wore them in the evening and following morning to traverse the rugged rock back and forth between camps as well as to go and get water. The sandals received a few nicks from the sharp rock, but otherwise withstood the abuse far better than I had any right to expect.
In addition to the above use, I have continued to use these for running errands around town as well as when walking to the store and the park. And when I go out to the garage or yard they are the first footwear I look for. To summarize, these are great fitting and very comfortable, as well as being quite durable. They provide terrific traction and good support. They have surpassed all of my expectations and I am grateful for the opportunity to review these.
I would like to thank the folks at 4AllOutdoors and Spenco for the opportunity to review such a fine product.
Dave (the turtle) Wilkes