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Feeling Fabulous in Flat Sandals

For the footwear fashionista who has worn heels for most of her life, the thought of switching to flat sandals can seem about as comfortable as scaling Mount Kilimanjaro in this season's six-inch stilettos. Although there are some truly beautiful flats around this season - among them the grungy gladiator sandal - the fact is that for many women wearing flat sandals for even for just a couple of minutes is enough to send sharp pains shooting up their legs. While it is tempting to see this as reason enough to steer clear of sandals, in reality this searing pain is your best reason to get those feet in a pair of flats quick smart.

The problem with high heels is that they contort your body into an unnatural shape by thrusting your pelvis forward and crippling your back. When you walk in this strange posture your boobs and bottom are forced to jut out at all sorts of angles which can feel all very sexy until you start to experience the long-term effects of these orthopaedic nightmares, which can include chronic back pain and intervertebral disc damage. Although you might get used to walking in heels - so much so that anything else feels unnatural - the truth is that if you find it difficult to walk without being contorted this way, then chances are you're at risk of serious damage down the track.

Just take a look at your favourite heels, ballet flats or even your sneakers and you'll notice that the shape of the shoe's toe area comes to a point. Now take a look at your feet. Spot the difference? When given ample space our toes naturally sit in an arc formation so that our feet are much wider at the toes than at the heel. Despite this, most fashion shoes get narrower at the toes and crunch them together, which can lead to crooked big toes and painful (not to mention unsightly) bunions. The pressure on those poor little toes is made all the worse when they are jammed into high heels which transfer the weight of the body from the sturdy heel bone (which has a strong layer of protective tissue) to the delicate bones at the front of the feet.

For those heel devotees considering coming down to earth this summer, a pair of Birkenstock flat sandals is a great option. Not only does the footbed on these orthopaedically designed sandals allow your toes plenty of room to spread out, it is made from a mix of cork and latex that actually heats up and moulds to your foot which makes them perfect for accommodating any bunions and bung toes. This unique mix of materials is also very good at absorbing the shock of walking on hard surfaces like pavements and wooden floors - an absolute godsend for all those tiny bones at the front of the foot that were forced to bear up to 50 percent of your bodyweight whenever you stepped out in heels.

And just because you are coming down a notch (or two) doesn't mean that you have to let go of the glam factor. The best styles from Birkenstock's Papillio Collection which features a whole lot of faux animal skins, metallic patterns and patent leathers. Or try my favourite Birkenstock of them all, a Gizeh Flowers Exquisite from this year's Rock Star Baby collection. With its stunning combination of black leather and Swarovski crystals, this dressy little thong is just the thing to toughen up a pretty tree dress or a floaty maxi. As with any Birkenstock these beauties need to be worn in slowly (one hour on, one hour off, for the first four days) but I promise that once you slip on a pair of these flats you'll never want to go back.