Here's how to rock this spring's biggest shoe trend pain-free.
Mules and slides are projected to be one of this year's biggest fashion trends. Which is great news, because as far as style is concerned, they're incredibly versatile: the open back helps seamlessly transition an outfit from winter to spring, and the slip-on style means they couldn't be easier to get on and off.
The only problem? Mules aren't exactly great for your feet, says New York City-based podiatrist Jacqueline Sutera, MD. "The concern with both mules and slides is the open back," she explains. "When a shoe doesn't have a back or even a strap, the foot relies on toes gripping to keep the shoe from sliding off your foot while walking." Over time, this can lead to foot problems such as tendonitis, inflammation, and strains and might also worsen existing issues such as hammer toes.
But this doesn't mean you have to miss out on the trend entirely. If you choose to wear mules, Dr. Sutera recommends doing so for short periods of standing or walking (in other words, you probably don't want to commute in them). You should also look for a pair that has foot-friendly features such as arch support, a cushioned footbed, a rounded toe box, and a not-too-tall heel.
Dr. Sutera, who is also a member of the Vionic Innovation Lab, recommends this style from the comfort-focused footwear brand. It has a deeper-seated heel cup than many other mules (meaning it's a little easier for your foot to stay in the shoe), as well as a contoured footbed and the brand's concealed biomechanic technology to help align feet.
Free People Loafer Mule
A slightly elevated heel helps keep feet securely inside the shoe, while the rounded toe box ensures there's no pinching. "The toe box should always be big and wide enough to fit and accommodate all of your toes," says Dr. Sutera.
Dr. Scholl's Idol Mule
Dr. Scholl's shoes are famous for being ultra-comfy, and this pair is no exception. We love that you get the sporty style and traction of a sneaker, while the loafer silhouette keeps it work-appropriate. Also good: A supersoft cushioned footbed.
Lucky Brand Lidwina Espadrille Mule
Two of spring's biggest trends—mules and espadrilles—come together in this fashionable slip-on from Lucky Brand. A two-inch heel, like the one on this wedge, can add height without hurting feet, says Dr. Sutera. "Heel height should be no more than two inches, which is what the American Podiatric Medical Association recommends," she explains. Anything higher, she warns, "puts much more strain on your entire skeleton, your ankles, hips, knees, and back."
Loeffler Randall Lulu Block Heel Mule
If you're on the hunt for the perfect pair of mules for a special event, look no further. The square toe box on these Loeffler Randall beauties is super roomy, while the two-inch block heel adds height and style without hurting feet.
Donna Karan Mott Mule
Deeper-seated footbed? Check. Not-too-pointy toe box? Check. This metallic Donna Karan mule (also available in embossed black snake) even boasts a memory foam footbed.
Taryn Rose Blythe Mule
In addition to a PORON- and foam-cushioned footbed and arch support, these beige mules from Taryn Rose also have a deeper-seated heel cup. "The more your entire foot has with the footbed, the better," Dr. Sutera notes.
TOMS Leila Slingback Sandal
Granted, at 2 1/2 inches, the heel is a bit high. But we'll let it slip because... ankle straps! The adjustable slingback keeps feet securely in place without sacrificing style, while the chunky block heel and contoured foot bed ensure comfort.
BØRN Opal Mule Sandal
Prefer an open-toed slide style? Make sure you look for one that properly fits your feet, and err on the side of being a little roomy rather than too tight. "Don't let your toes hang out of a more open style," says Dr. Sutera. We love that this pair has a cushioned footbed with plenty of arch support. (Want more slide sandals? Here are some of our favorites.)