Oh hey, sandals season! When the temperatures finally rise after countless dreary winter days, you’re more than ready to take your perfectly pedicured toes out for a spin in your new sandals. Sandals are a wardrobe must-have when the summer finally arrives, but what are the different types of sandals?
Summer style can be determined by a myriad of things – a structured white button-down, a flowy, floral dress, or a pair of woven or rope sandals. Strappy sandals scream summer when combined with a silky slip or a denim mini. Flip-flops and slides are married to bikinis and crochet cover-ups on the beach.
Sandals are an evergreen closet essential because they’re ripe with versatility for all summery occasions. Whether you’re melting away while waiting for a cab to take you to the office, running errands on the hottest day of the year, or grabbing brunch with friends, sandals are shapeshifters.
Stylish and comfy, sandals are the go-to footwear for the warmer months and that’s why you need to familiarize yourself with different types of sandals. Simply searching for “sandals” online might not be specific enough to find what you’re actually on the hunt for – you might need to dig a little deeper.
Well, that’s why we’re here!
What exactly are sandals anyway?
Simply put, sandals are a type of footwear that features a lightweight, breathable upper attached by a single strap or multiple straps to the sole. Between slides, strappy sandals, flip-flops, slip-ons, and odd-looking sandals like Huaraches, there are multitudes of sandal styles to choose from.
Strappy sandals, for example, typically consist of multiple straps that can be thin or thick, depending on the style. Slides typically consist of one or two straps that are on the thicker side, such as Birkenstocks or Yeezys. Slippers are house sandals that are fluffy, chubby, and comfortable.
Sandals can be minimalist or maximalist, thick or thin, strappy or strapless – not to mention that they come in a variety of heel heights, materials, and silhouettes. They are a summer staple because they’re comfortable, wearable, and versatile – designed to go with pretty much everything you own.
Whether you’re a simple, sleek style devotee or a maximalist, chunky, lug-sole sandal enthusiast, there’s a type of sandal that works wonderfully with your personal style somewhere out there. Before you settle on a pair (or ten!), it’s important to know some basic terminology, including the different types of sandals.
25 different types of sandals you need to know
Slides are made with a flat sole and an open back with one or two straps towering over the top of your foot. What makes slides absolutely necessary for the summer is the fact that they’re super simple to slip on and off – hence the name.
Once deemed glorified shower shoes or poolside shoes, today’s slides are equipped with performance and functions that render them outdoors-friendly and even everyday-friendly.
Whether you opt for a sporty slide like Lululemon Restfeel Slide or something a little more fashion-forward like Birkenstock Arizona Soft Slide Sandal, you can wear your slide wherever you want to.
Flip-flops, also known as thong-style sandals, are everything you need and more when you’re getting ready for the summer of your life. Flip-flops are defined by a flat sole and a Y-shaped strap, but today’s flip-flops are much more advanced than the plastic ones we used to get at Walmart for $5.99.
Flip-flops are named that way because they’re designed with an open back that can lead to a “flopping” or “snapping” sound when you walk.
To tell the truth, there’s nothing more convenient than slipping on a pair of flip-flops for a beachside adventure or a quick stroll around the town. Flip-flops like Hoka ORA Recovery Flip-Flops or Crocs Adrina Flat Flip-Flops are what dreams are made of.
3. T-strap sandals
T-straps are similar to flip-flops, but they’re equipped with a defining characteristic that makes them different from everyone’s favorite slip-on sandals.
T-strap sandals are made with a flat sole, a T-shaped strap wrapping around the top of the foot and another strap wrapping around the back of the foot or the ankle. T-strap sandals are a little more secure and stable than flip-flops and that’s why they deserve a separate spot on the list.
What’s great about T-straps is that they’re pretty simple and sleek, which makes them work wonderfully with different styles, be it tailored trousers and button-downs or silky slips and cashmere sweaters.
4. Strappy sandals
We can’t even remember a time when strappy sandals weren’t on-trend. Whether you combine them with a formal frock to an elegant event, a silky slip on a date night with your significant other, or a structured suit set for a meeting, you’re guaranteed to attract attention and turn heads.
Strappy sandals are a wardrobe must-have, regardless of what your personal style might be. By definition, strappy sandals are a style of footwear defined by multiple thin straps wrapping around the top of your foot.
They can feature a variety of heel heights, but high heels are the most popular and prominent ones. From MANGO Ankle-cuff heeled sandals to Reiss leather strappy wedge sandals, you can’t go wrong with a pair in your closet.
5. Gladiator sandals
Gladiator sandals are back, and they’re here to stay. When you’re on the lookout for different types of sandals you’ve never worn before, you might want to check out these puppies.
Gladiator sandals are made with straps of leather that wrap around the foot, ankle, and sometimes up the calves. As the name suggests, they were once worn by none other than actual gladiators.
Originating in Rome, gladiator sandals have been in and out of style more times than we can count, but today’s gladiator sandals are anything but passé.
6. Stiletto sandals
Stilettos might be the most flattering type of sandals on the list, and that’s why we’re obsessed with them. Sure, they might not be the most comfortable footwear you can opt for when shopping for the upcoming season, but they’re guaranteed to elevate whatever look you’re going for. They’re that cute.
Stiletto sandals are pretty much what you think they are – they’re sandals with super-high heels that feature a single strap across the toes and a fastener strap around the ankle. Red carpets, evening events, and even work-related events aren’t complete without a pair of stunning stiletto sandals.
7. Sporty sandals
Sporty sandals are made for exploring the great outdoors, whether you’re going on a hike, backpacking, or simply wanting to wear something comfortable and protective. What sets sporty sandals apart from other sandal types are the features and functions they’re equipped with.
Ankle and arch support, waterproof fabrics, non-slip outsoles, shock absorption, and durable, comfortable straps are a must when you’re shopping for sporty sandals.
Sporty sandals are oftentimes deemed “ugly” because they prioritize function over fashion, but some of the styles we see nowadays are far from unattractive. From Chaco to Teva, we’re sure there’s a sporty sandal for everyone.
8. Platform sandals
Sky-high platforms seem to have taken the world by storm once again, although we were sure that the trend died with the ’90s. Platform sandals are best described as chunky sole sandals with an elevated footbed. Platforms are super simple to walk in thanks to the solid, flat base, too.
Whether you combine them with a scandalous slip for a night out or something a little more serious for a formal event, we’re sure you’re going to enjoy wearing everyone’s favorite ankle-breaking heels.
Melissa Megan sandals, for example, feature a smaller heel-to-platform ratio which makes them perfect for everyday wear, but Brandon Blackwood Sali pumps are definitely meant for a special occasion.
Huaraches are a type of woven footwear with an open-weaved top over the typically rubber or wooden base that provides a decent amount of coverage.
Originally associated with Mexican farmers and field workers, huaraches can feature an open or a closed-toe, although they’re typically associated with a closed-toe silhouette. Huarache sandals are perfect for the summer, and they’re especially popular among men who love the laid-back, casual summer style.
They’re super similar to espadrilles (more on that down below), but they’re much more durable and substantial. From Nisolo and Yuketen to Ralph Lauren and Chamula, huaraches are worth checking out.
Strappy sandals and thong-style sandals are a summer staple, but we could say the same thing about wedges. If you’re on the hunt for a comfortable, casual sandal you can wear to work, or a simple, sleek sandal that goes well with everything you own, wedges might be the right style for you.
When you go shopping for summer sandals, you’re met with a myriad of styles that can overwhelm and confuse you – what are you supposed to get? Wedges are classic and timeless, made with a unique platform called a “wedge.”
Zara, Mango, Asos, and other high street brands carry wedges of different styles all summer long. Go get them!
Everyone knows about espadrilles, right? When summer finally arrives around the corner, we collectively agree that espadrilles are and always will be the only summer sandals you need. Well, you’re allowed to wear as many different types of sandals as you want, but you get the picture.
Espadrilles go with everything. Whether you combine espadrille wedges with a white, flowy dress or espadrille flats with a denim-on-denim ensemble, you’re going to look like a million dollars. Espadrilles are perfect for that quiet luxury moment.
Made with braids of dried esparto grass, a plant indigenous to southern Spain, espadrilles have managed to remain one of the most popular summer styles for years and years.
12. Cork sandals
Cork sandals are different from espadrille sandals, and here’s why. Espadrilles are made with esparto grass, rope, or some other sort of woven material typically sown or glued on the footbed of the sandal.
Cork sandals, as the name suggests, are made with cork footbeds or cork wedges, depending on the style. And they have seemed to have made a serious comeback with Birkenstocks.
Whether you’re a Hotter devotee or you decide to go with a different brand (Steve Madden recently came out with stunning cork sandals!), you’re going to adore the feeling of walking on clouds.
13. Jelly sandals
Who wouldn’t want to wear jelly sandals on the beach? With another ’90s trend circling back, we’re more than happy to hop on the trend and rock jelly sandals off the beach, too. Made of molded, soft plastic, jelly sandals are comfortable, wearable, and waterproof.
Moreover, they’re made in different styles, but the most popular one features a closed-toed T-strap design with several additional straps running across the top of the foot. Jelly sandals might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they’re worth walking down memory lane for.
14. Peep-toe sandals
Peep-toe sandals are self-explanatory, right? Engineered with a cut-out detail on the tip of the toe box, peep-toe sandals are designed to expose the front toes. Peep-toes were all the rage during the 70s and 80s, but they’re known to come back every now and then.
Peep-toe booties made quite a splash on the fashion scene a few years back, but we’re yet to see influencers, celebs, and fashion designers playing with the outdated silhouette of peep-toe sandals. Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that they’re waiting for a moment in the spotlight.
15. Kitten-heel sandals
Speaking of spotlight, kitten-heel sandals are having a moment right now! Wince at the return of the itsy-bitsy heel all you want, but kitten-heel sandals are ticking all the boxes for a summer wardrobe must-have.
We’d define kitten heels as the opposite of stilettos – they’re short, narrow heels that typically range between one and three inches. Comfy, stylish, and perfect for the office, you can’t go wrong with a low slingback, pump, or mule.
For everyday ease and elegance, combine a kitten-heeled slingback with tailored trousers, a simple, white tee, and a matching belt. For a night out, combine a kitten-heeled mule with a silky slip or a daring mini. Kitten heels are here to stay, girls!
16. Menorcan sandals
Menorcan sandals are also similar to espadrilles. Originating from the Island of Spain, Menorcans are popular slingback, peep-toe leather sandals.
Originally designed for farmers who worked in harvest fields, Menorcan sandals gained fame across the world when people figured out how high-quality and hard-wearing they were.
Made with flat rubber soles and leather uppers, these sandals are a great way to get a little more coverage without sacrificing airflow. Breathable and lightweight, they’re perfect for everyday wear, whether you’re going to work, grabbing brunch, or going on a date.
17. Tatami sandals
With chunky upper straps shaped like flip-flops and a rectangular sole, Tatami sandals are traditional Japanese sandals typically made from tatami mats. They are lightweight, breathable, eco-friendly, and popular among Japanese people.
The Japanese believe that Tatami sandals are healthy for your feet and the best footwear you can wear in hot and humid temperatures.
They’re guaranteed to keep your feet happy and healthy and to prevent you from sweating (sort of). They’re widely available, and certainly worth checking out and experimenting with.
18. Clear sandals
Who wouldn’t want to wear Cinderella’s slippers and get the prince? With clear sandals, you can channel your inner Cinderella and feel like the prettiest princess at the ball. Try not to lose them when the clock strikes midnight, though!
Clear sandals are exactly what you think they are. They’re made with see-through heels and straps to elongate your legs and make you look like you’re not wearing sandals at all.
Clear sandals became popular over the last few years thanks to Amina Muaddi, a designer whose slingback sandals became a staple at every formal event. Designers flocked to recreate Amina’s designs, and soon we were bombarded with various styles of clear sandals.
19. Rope sandals
Rope sandals allude to the sea and that’s why they’re one of the summer’s chicest footwear choices you can make. Rather than opting for a boring strappy sandal, go for a rope sandal that wraps around your feet and ankles and makes you look like a warrior princess – or something of the sort.
Rope sandals are somewhat of a combination of an espadrille and a strappy sandal.
Made with traditional weave or utilitarian cord, rope sandals feature a flat sole with a bunch of rope straps wrapping around the foot. Rope sandals are the perfect throw-on when you’re rushing to meet with your friends, traveling to a foreign country, or napping on the beach.
Pair by pair, clogs are becoming quite the fashion-forward statement. When you’re trying to decide between slides, two-strap sandals, and a host of other different types of sandals, clogs might not be the footwear you flock toward. At first glance, they appear quite robust and heavy.
Quite on the contrary, though, clogs are one of the most comfortable shoes out there. Dating back to the 13th century, clogs appeared as basic wooden designs worn by the Japanese and the Dutch, but they’ve evolved to become so much more.
From minimalist clogs like Rachel Comey Blaring to statement clogs like Gucci GG, you can’t go wrong with a pair of these bold beauties.
Mules are experiencing a comeback, too, and we couldn’t be happier about that. Mules and clogs are quite similar, but we do need to underline that there are different types of mules you can choose from – peep-toe mules, high-heel mules, stilettos mules… We could go on and on about how versatile mules are.
Backless by definition, mules are a type of footwear that consists of a thick band of fabric (typically leather or suede) that goes over the top of the foot and attaches to the sole. Mules are a perfect transitional piece you can wear when you’re not ready to get rid of all your summer footwear quite yet.
22. Slingback sandals
Slingback sandals are a classic, timeless style of footwear distinguished by an ankle strap that encircles the ankle or heel. Not fully a pump and not quite a sandal, slingbacks are a great transitional piece, too.
Whether you combine them with a pleated skirt and a structured button-down for the summer or tailored trousers and a cashmere sweater for the fall, you’re going to look polished and put together.
They’re a little less formal than pumps, but they’re easy to dress up or down with a couple of simple accessories. They’re far from boring, too, because they’re known to come with gorgeous pops of jewel tones, metallic details, denim, and woven details.
23. Slip-on sandals
Slip-on sandals are super simple to slip on and off, and that’s why they’re a favorite among people who struggle to get dressed or simply don’t have the time to deal with laces and straps.
Made with a single, stretchy strap that wraps around your foot, they’re designed to stay on your foot no matter what. Moreover, slip-on sandals are comfortable and casual, which means they’re a great everyday option when you’re tired of slides or slippers.
24. Barefoot sandals
If you’re going on a hike, running on rough surfaces, or walking through a forest, you might think that barefoot sandals aren’t the best option. But… There’s always a “but” when it comes to barefoot footwear.
Enthusiasts argue that barefoot sandals are meant to mimic the feeling you’d get if you were walking barefoot. Apparently, doing this is incredibly healthy for your feet, posture, and overall well-being.
Before you knock them down because they’re too thin or flimsy, try to keep an open mind and give them a shot.
Slippers are a comfortable type of slip-on footwear you typically wear inside rather than outside, but we decided that slippers deserve a spot on the list, too.
Slippers are comfy, fluffy, and warm, and they’re made to mimic the appearance of outdoor footwear (a.k.a slides and sandals) but with fabrics that aren’t appropriate for outside wear.
Slippers are typically made with fabrics like wool, terry cloth, suede, leather, and even rubber. So, you can find slippers that can be worn both inside and outside.