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 Miller 8 Sandals Tumbled Metallic Gold Leather W/boxBrand New Mens Gucci Rubber Slide Sandals Size Us 12 In Box And PlasticChanel Black White Wooden Wedge Sandals Size 39Women's Chanel SandalsTory Burch Round Miller Sand Patent Sandal Size 6.5Chanel White Patent Leather Metal Logo Thong Sandals Size 38 8Birkenstock Mayari Mocha Birkibuc Women's Sandals Size 8m New (39)Gianvito Rossi High Heel Ankle Strap Sandals Nwb Sz 37 (7) White Glitter $790Birkenstock Germany Made Womens 9 40 Leather Sandals Slides Shoes HgTory Burch Miller New Womens 8 Patent Leather Flip Flops Sandals Shoes JpSaint Laurent Pink Patent Leather Tribute Platform Sandals Size 39.5Aquazzura Nude Sexy Thing Cutout Suede Tie-back Sandals Size 36.5#12 Tory Burch Miller Black Patent Leather Thong Sandals Womens Size 9 M$195 Tory Burch Miller Patent Leather Tan Sandals Size 8~ Valentino Blackleather Rockstud T-strap Flat Sandals (omg Omg!) ~ 38Giuseppe Zanotti Coline Pink 8.5 38.5 Suede Wing Platform Sandal Shoe $1595$195 Gucci Katina Rubber Sandals Size 10 Black Gucci Red Green Black L8 R9 Web Stripe Flip Flop Sandal Shoe New $295 MismateGucci Men's Rubber Slide Sandal: Size 10$195 Tory Burch Miller Patent Leather Black Sandals Size 9Tory Burch Miller Vintage Vachetta / Brown Leather Thong Sandals Size 8.5 M Gucci Pink SandalsJimmy Choo Nude Kaci Crystal Suede Leaf Sandals $1595 Size 41$195 Tory Burch Miller Patent Leather Black Sandals Size 10Gucci Sandals Women Flip Flops Gg Pursuit Bengal Tiger 37 7Adidas Originals Jeremy Scott Js Mega Flex Sandal Q23648 Uk 8.5 Us 9 Eu 42 2/3Stuart Weitzman ‘nudist’ Pave Crystal Sandals Nwb Sz 6 White Satin Heels $2,625Tory Burch Logo Miller Sandals Vintage Vachetta Leather Size 8Tory Burch 8 Patent Leather Beige SandalHermes Agneau Studded Oran Flat Sandals 37 Blanc White Metal 162953#3 Tory Burch Miller Vintage Vachetta Leather Thong Sandals Womens Size 6.5 MBirkenstock 8347 Womens Gizeh Gray Slide Thong Sandals Shoes 40 Medium(b,m) BhfoAquazzura Belgravia Studded Suede Lattice Sandals Size 38#14 Tory Burch Miller Gold Metallic Leather Thong Sandals Womens Size 8 M#7 Tory Burch Miller Makeup Leather Thong Sandals Womens Size 8.5 MJimmy Choo Lang Metallic Blue 7.5 37.5 Patent Strappy Sandal Shoe New $795 Genuine Birkenstock Sandals - Size 38 M - Mayari Birkibuc Style, Color "stone"Christian Louboutin Shoes 37 BlackGucci 'marmont' Sandal (women) Size: 37.5Gucci Pursuit Blooms Beige Multi 11 Floral Gg Logo Slide Sandal Uk10 Shoe $280#6 Tory Burch Miller Gold Metallic Leather Thong Sandals Womens Size 9 MTory Burch Miller Sandals Size 9 Silver$195 Tory Burch Miller Patent Leather Tan Sandals Size 9Birkenstock 'arizona' Soft Footbed Sandal (women) Black Size 39Saint Laurent Paris Classic Tribute 105 Sandal In Powder Patent Leather 37#14 Tory Burch Miller Black Patent Leather Thong Sandals Womens Size 8.5 MSaint Laurent Classic Jane 105 Bow Black Patent Leather Sandal Women Size 37.5 MTory Burch Amanda Off White Leather Sandals Flats 6 1/2 6.5 MChristian Louboutin Gwinee Black 7 37 Patent Crisscross Strappy Sandal Shoe $745Chaco Classic Red Sandals Women's Size 9 Double Strap Outdoor Water Hiking ShoesChristian Louboutin Black Round Toe Leather Sandals Pumps Heels Size 36.5 6.5#13 Tory Burch Miller Tejus Lizard Print Leather Thong Sandals Womens Size 9 MWomen's 8 Chaco Vibram Sole Hardly Worn Shoes Sandals Straps Color Valentino Rockstud Jelly Thong Sandals Size: 37Tory Burch Women's Miller Sandals In Sand Size 9m S3056#5 Tory Burch Miller Black Patent Leather Thong Sandals Womens Size 9 MPaul Andrew Peep Toe Embellished Sandals Nwb Sz 38/8 Pink Satin/suede Heel $1695Tory Burch Miller Metallic Gold Leather Sandals Womens Size 7.5 MTory Burch Women's Miller Sandals In Sand Size 10m S3057Gucci Nylon Vernice Web Horsebit Sandals 8 Black Heels 158371