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    

Tory Burch Cassia Thong Size 7.5 Slingback Royal Tan Leather Logo Sandals $245Sam Edelman Georgina Size 8.5 Gladiator Black Leather Sandals 38.5eu $125Tory Burch Amanda Flat Logo Sandals Size 7 Royal Tan Leather 37eu $250Tory Burch Ali Thong Size 7.5 Slingback Black Leather Sandals 37.5eu $235Tory Burch Miller Coconut Dark Brown Leather Sandal. Size 9$195.00 Authentic Tory Burch Black Patent Miller Thong Sandals Shoes Size 7 MJack Rogers Platinum Sandals Size 8Tory Burch Miller Sandals Flip Flops Size 7Gucci "katina" Pink Rubber Thong Ankle Strap Flat Sandal Womens Shoes 9 MTory Burch Miller Logo Thong Sandals Beige Nude Sz 8.5 100% Authentic No ReserveTory Burch Women Amanda Flat Black Tumble Leather Sandals Size 6.5 -no Reserve Michael Kors Sondra Leather Thong Sandal Brand New Size 7Jack Rogers Sz.8 Navajo Hampton Platinum Sandals/flats/classic! Jack Rogers Navajo Sandals Size 8mTory Burch Shoes Sandals Flip Flop Miller Saffiano Patent Black Snake Size 7.5mNew Jimmy Choo Beige Gray Snakeskin Open Toe Wedges Sandals Sz 38 8Tory Burch Miller Brown Leather Sandals Flats Thongs 7Women's Tory Burch Tan Flat Sandals Rhinestones 8.5 Free ShippingTory Burch Sandals 6Tory Burch Emmy Size 8.5 Metallic Gold Leather Slingback Logo Thong Sandals $225Sophia Webster Lula Hologram Heart Sandals Size 41Alexander Wang Kerry Triple-strap Sandal Caramel Smooth Fine Tory Burch Miller Tumbled Leather Sandals Size 8Jimmy Choo Brown Leather Cork Strappy Buckle Platform Wedge Sandals 36.5 ItalyNew Auth Louis Vuitton Chocolate Gold Tone Thongs Sandals Sz 39 9 In Box Jack Rogers Thong Sandal - Platinum - Size 7Tory Burch Miller Sandal Size 7.5 BrownWomen's Blue Chaco Z/2 Unaweep Sandal-size 7$425 New In Box Women's Gucci Bronze Leather Thong Sandals 8 38 Shoes Pumps HeelYves Saint Laurent, Ysl Tribute Black Patent Leather Platform Sandals Size 37.5New Yves Saint Laurent Mahogany Open Toe T Strap Platform Heels Sandals Sz 37 7Tory Burch Miller Flip Flops Sandals - Tan Patent - Size 8Tory Burch "thora" Flip Flop Sandal Tan Tumbled Leather Womens Size 9mZara Basic Sandal Orange & Tan Size 9Auth Chanel Navy Leather Hardware Logo T-strap Ankle Buckle Sandals 41.5 11.5 CTory Burch Miller Sandal In Royal Tan Size 8Tory Burch Red Patent Leather Flat Sandals, Flip Flop 8.5 (also Fits 8)Auth Chanel Navy Grosgrain Floral Applique Camellia Slides Sandals Sz 42 12 CTory Burch Silver Miller Sandals Jack Rogers Georgica Bone/white Leather Flip Flops Thong Sandals 8.5Christian Louboutin Gold Hampton Thong Sandals Slides Size 41 Us 9 - 9.5Valentino Rockstud - Strap Slingback Sandal Pump Shoes Size 38.5 Chanel Camellia Sandals 7.5 / 38 NewRockstud Pvc Thong Sandal, BlacTory Burch Miller 2 Sandals Flip Flop Light Brown 7m $225Tory Burch Thora Tumbled Leather Black & Gold Sandals Sz 6m Euc Barely Worn $125Jack Rogers Navajo Thong Sandal Size 9 Very Good Condition Retail $109.95Rachel Comey Sandal-shoes 7.5 Black Braided ClogsTory Burch Black Patent Miller Thong Square Sandal Size 7Chanel Camelia Thongs Sandals Shoes Flip Flops Size 39. 2012Jack Rogers 'hamptons' Women's Metallic Gold Thong Sandal Size 6 MJack Rogers Marbella Gold Cork Wedge Sandals Heels Palm Beach Del Mar 9 M NewPrada Shoes Flames Authentic Prada Women Green Bombshell Shoes Sandals 39Chanel Jelly Camellia Sandals Size 38100% Authentic Christian Louboutin Bow Pvc High Heel Sandals-size 38 - Nib/us 7Tory Burch Britton Gold Pebbled Leather Sandals Flip Flop Thongs Flats Size 8mChanel Patent Leather Sandals No ReserveWomens Authentic Chaco Waterproof Brown Pink Print Nylon Sport Sandals 9 MJack Rogers Sandals Size 10Wholesale Lot 100 Womens Shoes High Heel Platform Wedge Pump Sandals Boots Flats