Slippers…a common holiday gift and for good reason. Who doesn’t love a new, cozy pair of slippers each year, especially when they wear out so quickly?

But slippers provide more than just comfort, especially for chronic pain sufferers, such as diabetics, folks with plantar fasciitis or those with back problems. Podiatrists recommend slippers over barefoot walking at home, and believe it or not, slippers do need to be replaced each year as they can accumulate (yuck) bacteria, fungus and microbes!

What’s the best way to choose the right slippers? For starters, you need to understand why podiatrists recommend them.

The Podiatrist says…

For starters, podiatrists recommend that all of their patients have a quality pair of slippers. While quality can mean “luxurious” or even “indulgent”, it’s more important that the slippers provide the right kind of support for the weary feet of pain sufferers and non-sufferers alike. Slipper not only provide a benefit to your feet, but also your knees, hips, and back, since they provide cushioning for your entire body. If you already have a pain condition, slippers are instrumental in making sure that pain doesn’t return or get worse.

DON’T wear your slippers outdoors because you will pick up things in the environment that have the potential to make you sick. As well, switching out of shoes and into slippers gives your daily footwear time to dry, reducing the potential for foot infections.

DON’T go longer than a year without purchasing new slippers. As with other parts of your body, your feet are constantly shedding skin cells. Over time, those dead skin cells, while microscopic, will build up in your slippers. Wearing socks helps extend the lifespan a bit…but honestly, slippers tend to become threadbare, smelly or wear out on the sole after a year. These are all signs that it is time for a new pair.

the best way to choose the right slippersDON’T go barefoot at home. When you walk on hardwoods or ceramic tiles, in particular, you have nothing to absorb the shock of that hard surface when you are barefoot. Over time, barefoot walking can deteriorate the fat pad of your foot, which provides a natural cushion. Podiatrists say if you have flat feet, sore arches, foot pain or diabetes, you need more protection. Slippers offer protection, support and, of course, keep your feet warm.

Did you know…that as women experience hormone changes in their bodies, they can have “fat atrophy”? This painful condition can result in the need for reparative surgery or regular use of orthotics.

Foot pain conditions that require slippers

While everyone benefits from wearing slippers, some people have specific pains in their feet that make slippers a must-have.

Toe pain

  • Bunions
  • Callouses
  • Ingrown toenails

Heel pain

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Achilles Heel
  • Bursitis

Arch pain

  • Flat feet
  • Overly high arch

People with diabetes or peripheral neuropathy have to pay special attention to slipper choices, as these conditions result in a chronic condition that comes from permanent nerve damage to the feet.

RELATED: Selecting Shoes When You Have Pain in Your Feet

How to choose better slippers?

When evaluating slippers, you’ll need to start by deciding if it needs to accommodate the custom orthotic you wear daily in your shoes. Some slipper styles are better for this – a flip-flop style slipper, for example, won’t work.

Diabetics should always wear a closed-toe, firm slipper to protect their feet from sharp objects. The nerve damage in a diabetic’s feet means that the sufferer doesn’t always feel pain until it’s too late. So, a completely enclosed slipper is a good option.

Decide if you prefer an open back or closed-back slipper. The open-back design is better for someone with heel pain caused by rubbing from shoes. The closed-back design is better for overall support and stays secure so that the toes do not have to grip the shoe while walking. This reduces your likelihood of developing hammer toes. If you have balance issues, closed-back is the way to go.

Some people prefer a sandal or flip-flop style. Make sure what you choose has a firm sole and an arch support.

A few slipper options

Slippers are like shoes in that people have preferences for different ones.

If you have diabetes or neuropathy, you may want to go to Healthy Feet. They have a wide-range of options, covering a variety of styles. There are ones that have removable insoles so you can add your own custom orthotics. Many come with adjustable straps – another great feature diabetes or neuropathy sufferers will want.

If you have plantar fasciitis or another heel pain, check out Boot Bomb. They’ve reviewed ten different slippers and provide some insights into what makes a good slipper for a heel-pain sufferer. They recommend considering:

  • Good heel support and a good orthotic footbed
  • A midsole that is shock absorbing
  • Good arch support

If you just want a slipper recommended by the American Podiatric Medical Association, they have a search engine on their site where you can see which brands and products meet their seal of approval. A few that fit the bill come from Vionic slippers, a brand podiatrists commonly recommend – in particular, the Whistler Slipper, Laura Slipper, Gemma Mule Slippers and Shawn Slipper.

Finally, as you research slippers, always look at reviews to see what real consumers have experienced with various slipper brands. Consider slippers as the perfect holiday gift this year…for a loved one or even yourself!