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    

Valentino Couture Bow Black 8 38 Patent Leather Slide Wedge Sandal Shoe $675 Gucci Black Multi 8 38 Signature Web Stripe Gg Slide Thong Sandal Shoe $395Tory Burch New Miller Womens 6 M Beige Patent Leather T-strap Sandals Shoes HuChaco Sandals 8Tory Burch Mismatch 7.5 / 8 Womens New Miller 2 Leather T-strap Sandals Shoes CpValentino Rockstud Nude Beige 7 37 Rubber Jelly Bow Flip Flop Sandal Shoe $295Yves Saint Laurent Tribute Black L7 R7.5 Platform Sandal Shoe New $875 MismateBrunello Cucinelli Monili Carbon Gray 9.5 39.5 Leather Sandal Shoe New $1595 Pedro Garcia Estee Pewter Beige 7.5 37.5 Crystal Criss Cross Sandal Shoe $495Tory Burch Miller Sandals. Sz 9. Silver/pewter. Very Nice!*** Chanel *** Gold Crackled Metallic Leather Sandals Flats. Size 39.5Gucci Mens Sandals G8 Size Excellent Condition Flip Flops Supreme AuthenticPrada Metallic Gold 7.5 37.5 Leather Triangle Logo Thong Sandal Shoe New $430Birkenstock Mayari Purple Sandals Size 38 EucTory Burch Selma New Womens 9 Leather Platform Wedge Slides Sandals Shoes CqGucci Rubber Slide Sandal Flip-flop Gucci Sz 9 Wow!#39 Tory Burch Miller Makeup Leather Thong Sandals Womens Size 8.5 M#2 Tory Burch Miller Black Patent Leather Thong Sandals Womens Size 7 MGucci Mens Sandals Flip Flops Size 42 9Chaco "zx/2 Vibram Unaweep" Zebra Aqua Strap Sandals Women's Us 8 Womens Birkenstock Arizona Black Soft Footbed Sandals Sz 7 Or 38 EuroManolo Blahnik Chaos Metallic Gold 6.5 36.5 Leather Ankle Strap Sandal Shoe $725Chanel Patent Leather Black Platform Sandals Slides Size 39 Us 8.5 9 Euc!!Ysl Yves Saint Laurent Tribute Black Patent Leather Sandal Pumps Women Size 38Chanel 37 Sling Back Sandals Metal Hells Shoe Black AuthenticTory Burch Miller Flip Flop Sandal Black Patent Size 12Birkenstock Black Arizona Sandals New In Box Eu 38 Us 7.5 Or 8 Narrow NibChanel Nude Pink Camellia Thong Sandal 41 (41.5)Manolo Blahnik Chaos Nude Beige 5.5 35.5 Patent Ankle Strap Sandal Shoe New $725Tory Burch Sandals, Size 9New Tory Burch Miller 2 Dulce De Leche Ivory Cream Leather Sandals - Size: 9.5#55 Tory Burch Miller Black Patent Leather Thong Sandals Womens Size 10 MBed Stu $125 Women's Soto Cut Out Sandals Size 8 Sand Rustic Leather F373012Trippen Women's SandalsChanel Black Suede Gold Chain Cc Logo Heel Sandal Shoe Sz 37 7Salvatore Ferragamo Black 10 D Ee Criss Cross Logo Buckle Sandal Shoe New $420Keen Men's Newport Sandal Shoes Size 10.5 Med Black/golden Glow Leather 1001871Birkenstock Arizona Soft Footbed Sandal Mocha Suede Size 39/l8/ M6 UnisexGucci Blooms Pursuit Supreme Slide Sandals Nib Size 8 38 NewChanel Black Camellia Flower Jelly Flip Flop Sandals 39/8-8.5#60 Tory Burch Miller Black Tumbled Leather Thong Sandals Size 8 MPuma Rihanna Fenty Fur Slide Sandals Pink Women's Size 5.5 CreeperBirkenstock Arizona White Sandals Size 40#17 Tory Burch Miller Vintage Vachetta Leather Thong Sandals Womens Size 8 MTory Burch Logo Black Lichee Leather Sandals Size 9Authentic Birkenstock Arizona Men's Sandals New Nib Eu 43 /us 10-10.5 Regular#3 Tory Burch Miller Silver Snake Metallic Leather Thong Sandals Women Size 11 MTory Burch Jelly Mini Miller Thong Sandal Flip Flops Rubber Nude Medallion 8Tory Burch 'miller' Flip Flop Sandal Brown Leather Womens Size 8 Bottega Veneta Sandals Uk 5 Eu 38 From Net A PorterTory Burch Leather Miller Sandal Orange 7.5Gucci Gg Gold Logo Gree / Red / Green Web Black Leather Thong Sandals Size 42Gucci Mens Pursuit 72 Green Red Stripe Black Sandals Spa Slides 12g 13 UsJimmy Choo Lance Nude Patent Leather Wavy Strap Sandal Heels Womens Size 37Worn Twice! With Box! Size 9 Tory Burch Miller 2 Sandal Dulce De Leche LeatherChristian Louboutin Snake Skin And Leather Sandals In Cream Size 37.5#35 Tory Burch Miller Makeup Leather Thong Sandals Womens Size 8 MNew Keen Men's Newport Sandal Shoes 12 Med Neutral Gray/gargoyle Leather 1010122Authentic Givenchy Black Logo Womens Spa Slide Sandals Shoes 7/37Tory Burch Miller Nude Patent Leather Thong Sandals Size 8