Every summer in cities across the world, millions of feet are set free from leather bondage as women trade their foul-weather Wellingtons and bulky UGGs for open-to-the-elements sandals of every description.

There are golden Ferragamos, with oval open toes and a single strap behind the ankles; Charles Jourdan sandals with cork soles and fake cherries on their plastic vamps; wide Birkenstocks for those who like to walk with their feet firmly on the ground; and Tevas and other sport sandals, for working warriors who cannot wait for the weekend.

In formal or dress wear, the line between sandals and high-heels can be pretty fuzzy. Many sandals, particularly those designed for making an eye-catching entrance at a resort swimming pool, sport heels that would make a runway model blush. Some Italian sandals, for example, have breathable mesh covering the instep on top and four-inch heels below, while Manolo Blahnik’s idol, André Perugia, created stiletto sandals of multi-hued kid leather for his fashionable clients.

Less spectacular, but even more imitated, are Andrea Pfister’s plastic basketweave sandals, which rested on low, wooden heels. And shoemakers everywhere have created sandals for an evening of dancing.

Bally dressed up its wide-heeled sandals with stripes of silver kid and black suede; Cardin anchored leather straps to its soles at the toes, instep, and ankle; and Halston threw caution, as well as good podiatry practices, to the wind with its strappy, and revealing, high-heel sandals that were probably meant to be held in the hand or tossed on a nearby banquette than to tear up the floor at Studio 54.

Sometimes sandals have borrowed from the materials menu of cowboy boots, as in the snakeskin examples produced by Ravel. Other times sandals borrow from seemingly unrelated shoe styles , such as the sandals that rested on platforms in the 1940s or the improbably high cork disco platform sandals of the 1970s and ’80s.

For a few manufacturers, the open architecture of the sandal is not revealing enough, which is why, in the 1950s, many designers turned to new, clear plastics for their straps, both across the instep and in the back. Rhinestones and other costume jewels were often used to decorate the vamp. In other cases, clear Lucite heels would augment the transparent look. Companies from American Girl to Ferragamo to Herbert Levine championed this airy effect...

Finally there are those sandals that resemble works of art. Bernard Figueroa employed silk flowers on his sandals, going so far as to attach fake florals to the ends of his strappy ankle ties. Jimmy Choo sandals are often all straps and little else, grids of neon greens and pinks. And some recent Manolo Blahnik sandals have tried to have it both ways by being revealing and light, but also making room for thick ankle bands that drip with boot-like leather fringe.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Shoes

All About Shoes

From Canada's Bata Shoe Museum comes a visually impressive exhibit focusing on the history of the shoe from traditi… [read review or visit site]

Virtual Shoe Museum

Virtual Shoe Museum

This virtual museum from Shoe Icons Publishing showcases over 800 pairs of shoes and related reference information.… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Women's Tory Burch Miller Sandal Size 9Salvatore Ferragamo Glory 8 B Black Patent Bow Slide Sandal Heel Shoe $425 Il456Jimmy Choo Texas Sandals Size 36Gucci Pursuit 72 Red Green Slide Sandals 11 G = Us 12Birkenstocks~women's 38~sz7~mayari~bronze Leather Sandal~excellentTory Burch Miller 2 Thong Sandals Flip Flops In Black And White Size 9.5 M UsBirkenstock Women's Arizona Black Leather Sandals Size 9 (40)Tory Burch Women's Miller Patent Leather Sandal Size 7mTory Burch Miller Logo Thong Sandal Black Patent Leather Size 10Tory Burch Miller Sandals - Size 8 - Dark FuchsiaChristian Louboutin Black Leather Studded Sandals Wedges Sz 40 10 Bn434Birkenstock Arizona Size 38 Tan Leather Sandals Chanel ~nwd~ Camellia Flower Wmns 5 35 Jelly Shiny Rubber Thong Sandals Shoes XkNew Chaco Zx2 Unaweep Womens Shoes Sandal Crops Fast Ship Sz 8 Shoe Hike BeachTory Burch Miller Metallic Sandal Flip Flop Rose Gold Size 8 EucChaco Single Strap Toe Loop Z2 Colorado Vibram Women's Burgandy Red Sandal Us 7Authentic Christian Louboutin Nude Leather Cross Street Peep-toe Sandals-39.5Tory Burch Patent Miller Logo Detail Thong Sandals Size 7Birkenstock Arizona Soft Footbed Taupe Suede Womens Sandals - Size 38Otbt Bushnell Gold Wedge Sandals~ Us 6 MAuth Chanel Multicolored Gun Metal Tone T Strap Suede Sandals Sz 38 8Tory Burch Miller Carmel Patent Leather Thong Sandals Size 10 M$1250.00 Auth Chanel Black & Beige Leather Platform Sandals Shoes Size 40 Us 10Tory Burch 'miller' Flip Flop Sandal Thong Vintage Vachetta Leather Sz 9 $195Tory Burch Logo Chocolate Sheepskin Sandals Size 9Gucci Sandals Us 10 Eu 43 Brand New No Box Black RubberValentino Rockstud Thong Sandal 37 BlackJimmy Choo Strappy Patent Leather Sandals Nwb Sz 37/7 Coral Pink Flats $725Tory Burch Navy Stripe Miller Style Sandals Sz 7Birkenstock Arizona Flat Sandal Eu39 Us 8 Black Leather Soft FootbedSwedish Hasbeens Ornament 712 Platform Peep Toe Clog Sandal Size 37 - EucAuth Christian Louboutin Black Satin Diamante Buckle Ankle Wrap Sandals Sz 37 7Nwb Stuart Weitzman Black Leather Silver Tone Knee High Gladiator Sandals Sz 6Tory Burch Miller Logo Leather Thong Flip Flop Sandal Tan Cognac 9m Tory Burch Miller Gold Tumbled Leather Thongs Sandals Flats Sz 8.5 8 1/2 MTory Burch Miller Black Patent Leather Sandals Womens Size 8 MChristian Louboutin Sexy Funky Sandals Tan 120mm Size 39Chaco Zx2 Yampa Sport Sandals,women's Size 7, Excellent Clean ConditionStuart Weitzman Aphrodite Gladiator Sandal - Camel, 7 M - DisplayTory Burch Logo Chocolate Sheepskin Sandals Size 8Tory Burch 'miller' Sandal Sand Size 6.5Chaco Zx2 Yampa Sport Sandals,women's Size 8, Excellent Clean ConditionChaco Zx2 Yampa Sport Sandals,women's Size 9, Excellent ConditionAuthentic New Ysl Strappy Sandal Size 38 7.5 Nib Yves Saint LaurentTory Burch Logo Brown Sheepskin Sandals Size 10Tory Burch Patent Miller Logo Detail Thong Sandals Size 8Otbt Women's Bushnell Pewter Wedge Sandal Size 10 M LeatherChaco Z/2 Yampa Toe Loop Blue Nylon Sport Sandals Vibram Sole Women’s 9 (eu 40)Yves Saint Laurent Tribute T-strap Sandal Nude Beige Heels Sz 37/7, 5"Tory Burch Logo Chocolate Sheepskin Sandals Size 7Authentic Gucci Gg Logo Micro Guccissima Sandal Black Size 10Tory Burch Black Miller Patent Leather Logo Thong Sandals, Flat, Size 10 M, $195Tory Burch Used Miller Tan Sandals Size 8Eileen Fisher Sport 8 Gold Leather Criss-cross Rear Zip Sandal Shoe $195 Ilp529*new* Birkenstock Papillio Tabora Women Black Sandals 9us 40eu Olukai Hiapo Casual Leather Sandals Flip Flops Black Us Mens Size 11Tory Burch Logo Brown Sheepskin Sandals Size 7Women's Birkenstock Sandals Size 39 (8) In Great Hardly Worn Condition!Authentic Tory Burch Brown Leather Cameron Wedge Thong Sandals-7Chaco Z2 Unaweep Sport Sandals,women's Size 9, Excellent Condition