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    

Ysl Saint Laurent Tribute Platform Sandals Grey Gray Patent. L@@k!! 37 7 No ResGiuseppe Zanotti Design Gold Leather & Jeweled Toe Slide Sandals Size 38.5 NewTory Burch Black Patent Leather Miller Gold Tone Thong Sandals Sz 7.5 MTory Burch Authentic Miller Brown Thong Sandals Sz 8 BrownTory Burch Nude/sand/beige Miller Reva Logo Thong Sandal Flat Shoes Sz 8Authentic Tory Burch Miller Sandals Shoes Black Patent Leather Sz 10Tory Burch White Flat Sandal Size 8.5Nib Isabel Marant Black Leather Carol Stud Ankle Gladiator Sandals Sz 39 9 $1035Authentic Tory Burch Miller Sandals Shoes Black Patent Leather Sz 9Prada Pink Leather & Textile Floral Applique Flat Sandals Size 39 NewRoger Vivier Red Patent Leather Buckle Ankle Strap Heeled Sandals Size 38Womens Chanel Espadrilles Sandals Shoes Black Lambskin Bnib W/dustbag Size 37Birkenstock Arizona Soft Footbed Patent Leather Sandal (women) White Shoes 6/37Tory Burch Miller Thong Sandal- Tan Brown Size 8Balenciaga Arena Mini Wedge Studded Sandal - Size Eu 38, Us 8Supreme Sandal Slide Slippers Black Red Box Logo Sticker 2014 Ss14 Cdg 10 PclTory Burch Jet Black Patent Leather Miller Reva Logo Thong Sandal Flat Shoes 8.5Nwot Authentic Valentino Pink Rockstud Jelly Bow Thong Sandals, Size 37, $295Beautiful Chanel Jelly Black Camellia Sandals Size 8New Tory Burch Miller Logo Thong Sandals Patent Leather Size 7Tory Burch "miller Sandal" Metallic Pewter Shoes Size 9 Msrp $195+ TaxTory Burch Authentic Miller Khaki Thong Sandals Sz 7 KhakiDolce&gabbana New Woman Rubber Flip Flop Sandals Shoes Sz 38 Eur Made Italy $239Louis Vuitton Tulum Thongs Size 8 (9 Us) Brand New Mens Sandals Flip FlopsAuth Chanel Camellia Jelly Sandals Size 39 Chanel Black Jelly Beige Camellia Sandals Flip Flops Sz-38 7 Very Good Cond! Jimmy Choo Hilary Neon Yellow Sandals Celebrity Fav So Hot!! 37.5 7.5Tory Burch Logo Authentic Miller Thong Sandals Flip Flops Khaki Sz 8 KhakiBnwb Chanel Camelia Thongs Sandals Rubber Sz36 $425Tory Burch Miller Red Flame Flat Thong Sandals Shoes 8New Isabel Marant Black Leather Hollen Open Toe Sandals Flats Sz 37 7 In BoxAuthentic Louis Vuitton Jaia Black Gold Suede Sandal 38.5 8 8.5 Rtl $935 + TaxTory Burch 'miller' Sandal (women) Size 9 M, Black PatentChanel Jelly Sandals Size 38Azzedine Alaia Gray Suede Disc Stud Circle Ankle Strap Embellished Sandals 38.5No 6 Clog Sandals Sz 38Black Tory Burch Miller Tumbled Leather Thong Sandal Size 9 BlackTory Burch 'miller' Logo Thong Nude Patent Sandals Size 8Tory Burch "miller" Black Patent Leather Logo Sandals Size 9.5 MBirkenstock 'arizona' Sandal (women) Size 9/ 40, Metalic Gold Leather (limited)2014 Fly London Black Leather Yala Wedge Sandals Strappy Comfort Shoes Sz 8/39Gucci Mens Thong Sandal Us Size 10 (gucci/italy Size 9)Authentic Women's Gucci Flip Flops Sandals Size 37/7 Lifford Double G SilverTory Burch Miller Logo Rare Vanilla Cream Sandals Size 8.5 Perfect Condition!!!Trippen "sandal F" Sandals Size 8 /38Chanel Black Gladiator Wedge Sandals Size 36Gucci Becky Suede Fringed High Heel SandalGorgeous Snakeskin Hermes Oran Box Leather Sandals Size 39(euro) 8 1/2 (us) 9240Tory Burch Metallic Pewter Silver Leather Flat Sandal Size 10m Women's Worn 2xChristian Louboutin Fontanete Python Platform Peep Heel Sandal 37.5 $1285Tory Burch Authentic Miller Black Patent Leather Thong Sandals Sz 9 BlackNo Reserve Louis Vuitton Brown Gold Chain Sandals Slip On 2" Heels 41 Us 9.5Orig. Hermes Oran H Sandals ~ White Slippers Flats Size 39Authentic Chanel Camellia Jelly Thong Sandals 38Giuseppe Zanotti New Size 39 Cobalt Blue Wedge Platform SandalsAuth. Valentino 'rockstud' Black Thong Sandal Jelly Bow Flip Flops Shoes 8/382014 Jack Rogers Resort Navajo Thong Sandals Slide Spa Shoes Platinum Womens 8 MTory Burch Miller Sandals Black & Silver Size 7.5New Jack Rogers Navajo Stardust Copper Leather Flat Sandals Size 7100% Authentic Chanel Flat Cc Thong Brown Leather Sandals Size 39.5