Summer Buyers' Guide: Clothing & Sandals

Think J.Lo's sandals are cool? No matter what trendy summer clothing or footwear item you're ogling, this summer you can be as stylish as the A-list celebs -- without being a fashion victim.

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 01, 2006
3 min read

Slip your summer feet into pretty sandals and flip-flops, and check out the range of summer clothing that provides protection from the sun. You can even add SPF in your laundry.

Fashion for your feet and the rest of you is always more fun in the summer. Here's what's hot in clothing and sandal styles.

Dressing stylishly -- but sensibly -- is easier this summer than ever before. For starters, it makes sense to choose clothing with a tight weave or knit, which deliver a higher SPF. Here's how to tell: Hold the material up to a window or lamp and see how much light gets through. Darker clothes also generally have a higher SPF.

Remember that your average light-colored cotton shirts provide an SPF of only about 4 -- and they're practically useless once they get wet. All garments lose about a third of their sun-protective ability when drenched with moisture.

To make your summer clothing as protective as possible, Audrey Kunin, MD, a dermatologist in Kansas City, Mo., suggests throwing a packet of RIT sun guard in with your laundry to increase UV protection in clothing. "This way you can wash SPF 30 into all your washable clothing," she says.

But that's not all. Smart clothing that has UV protection already built in is now readily available. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation based in New York City, such clothing contains colorless compounds, fluorescent brighteners, or specially treated resins that absorb UV rays. As a result, the clothing often provides an SPF of 30 or higher.

And there may be more in the way of functional clothing this summer. You may have read about "magical" anti-cellulite clothing including pantyhose, shorts, pants and shoes that will get rid of cottage-cheese buttocks and thighs for good.

But buyer beware. "This is sort of the emperor wearing no clothes except in this variation, the emperor is wearing cellulite panties," says Bruce E. Katz, MD, medical director of the JUVA Skin and Laser Center in New York City. "It just doesn't do anything. You can't see any difference. But if you want to wear them, go right ahead.

"Basically these clothing items contain creams and by wearing the pants, you build up heat, which may increase penetration of the creams. The shoes were originally designed as orthopaedic shoes and are meant to re-create the natural gait of folks who walk barefoot for distances on uneven surface. As such, they have a curved sole that forces you to use muscles you probably didn't know you had. Bottom line: "caveat emptor," Katz says.

Flip-flops aren't just for showering at public places anymore. This summer (like last summer), you'll see grosgrain flip-flops strolling through the mall, metallic leather sandals at restaurants and strappy, beaded thongs anywhere feet are.

But don't be fooled by style alone. There is nothing worse than uncomfortable shoes and the havoc they can wreak on your feet -- especially in summer!

"Look for flip-flops and sandals that are comfortable and stylish," says Oliver Zong, DPM, a podiatrist with offices in New York City and Scarsdale, New York. "If you need arch support or have flat feet, go for something that's not pancake flat or you will end up with heel or arch pain," he says.

"Look for a wedge where the back of the heel is raised, as this is more supportive than the pancake-flat variety," he adds.

"Some times, flip-flop thongs can irritate the big toe and second toe, so if you have irritation issues, look for a sandal toe or a thongless flip-flop," Zong says. What's more, flip-flops and many sandals are backless, so you can develop heel calluses and fissures," he says. To avoid this, keep your feet lubricated with moisturizer.

According to American Podiatric Medical Association, your summer flip-flips should be made of natural materials such as leather. Make sure straps aren't too tight -- that can impede circulation in your feet.