14 Different Types of Sandals

A variety of women's sandals with a hat on a wooden floor.

Most people have been wearing sandals pretty much since they were born. Sandals are one of the oldest shoe designs in history and they’re all over the world. In fact, sandals are such a well-known shoe choice and so widespread around Earth that they were even worn by Jesus.

Everyone has worn sandals, from royals to all regular people everywhere. But this long history in the fashion world has made sandals pretty complicated, too. There are many, many different types of sandals. Can you identify all the most popular sandal styles?

Most Popular Sandal Styles

Sandals have been around for so long and adored by so many cultures around the world for so many thousands of years, there are a lot of different types of them. Pretty much every shoe designer has created their own distinct sandal styles, building upon a pretty simple, standard design.

Basically, sandals are a sole that has straps attached to it that you use to secure the shoe to your feet. Within this basic framework, anything goes when it comes to creating sandal styles.

A man wearing a pair of sandals inflating his bike.

Sports sandals are their own distinct type of sandal. These sandals are made to be tough, something that a lot of sandal types aren’t. Sports sandals are made with multiple straps to fit securely on feet.

They’re also made with comfortable soles in a supportive design. Sports sandals are designed for athletic activities, which sets them apart from many other sandal styles that definitely aren’t meant for any sort of physical exertion.

A woman wearing flip flops at the beach.

Flip flops are a prime example of sandals you wouldn’t want to wear while running. This is still the most popular type of sandals by far, however. Flip flops have a simple sole with a Y-shaped thong secured directly to the sole. They’re most commonly made with rubber, but flip flops can be made out of any materials and they’re seen in all colors and patterns.

A pair of pink and white sandals with flower decoration.

It’s debatable in the fashion world whether slides are a type of flip flops or if they are their own style, but there is no question that they’re a type of sandal. Slides have a single strap that goes horizontally across the top of the shoe that’s secured directly to the sole.

A close look at a woman wearing a pair of wedge sandals.

Wedge sole sandals have a thick heel that gives you lift and a little extra height. Sometimes, the wedge heel is several inches high. The heel may be a little higher at the back and slope to a shorter height near the toe or it may be a consistent height throughout.

A woman wearing a pair of brown leather sandals.

Gladiator sandals have been around since ancient Rome because they were literally worn by gladiators who fought in arenas. This style is characterized by the complicated strapping system, particularly the straps that extend up to at least to the ankle, sometimes lacing around the lower leg. In some designs, the straps can go up almost to the knee.

A woman walking down the steps wearing a pair of red high heeled sandals.

High heel sandals are sandals that have high heels. You can find high heel sandals in any kind of heel style, including tall stilettos.

A pair of wooden Japanese sandals at a Japanese ryokan.

Wood sandals are modeled after ancient Eastern sandal designs. This style has been popular in Japan for centuries. These are basically flip flop sandals that have a wooden sole that is built on top of two horizontal supports that run across the width of the sandal, one near the heel and another near the toes. These are very long-lasting sandals because you can replace the top strap as needed and keep wearing the wooden soles. There are many modern variations of wood sandals, including heeled styles.

This is a close look at a woman wearing a pair of snakeskin sandals.

Many styles of sandals can be strappy sandals. Gladiator sandals are clearly a type of strappy sandals. Heeled and wedge sandals can be called strappy sandals, too. However, strappy sandals can be their own style. This type of sandal is defined by having multiple straps, sometimes in pretty complex designs.

A woman wearing black strap sandals with her red nails.

Platform sandals look a lot like wedge sandals, but the heel of these sandals is different and they are a separate type. Platform sandals have a thick sole throughout and a raised heel that adds inches to your height.

This is a close look at chunky strap sandals on display at a store.

Chunky sandals were very popular in the 1990s fashion but they’ve made a recent resurgence on the fashion scene. These sandals have thick soles that are uniform, with no raised heels. Usually, chunky sandals have thicker straps, too. These sandals differ from sport sandals because they’re styled for looks and not for function.

A pair of black leather platform sandals.

Block heel sandals have a thick, blocky heel and a slim sole that has no platform of its own. These sandals are made with a little bit of support at the back of the heel and they’re commonly styled with a slide sandal-type toe. Often, they also have an ankle strap to create a secure fit around your feet.

Sandals by Material

Some sandals are characterized not by their style or their heels but by the materials they’re made from. Leather sandals are all leather, with soles and straps that are all made from this material. Rope sandals are made entirely from the rope, even the soles. You can find sandals made with lace, straw, ribbons, rubber, plastic, or just about any other material.

The Best Types of Sandals for Your Feet

A woman putting on a pair of pink floral sandals.

Are sandals good for your feet? Are sandals bad for your feet? There are so many different types of sandals and so many different styles and designs, it’s impossible to give these questions just one answer. Because the design of sandals can be so varied, there are some that are good for your feet and some that definitely aren’t so good.

When you’re concerned about foot health, there are some characteristics you’ll want to look for. Foot doctors advise against wearing heels that lift up the back of your feet, as this puts pressure on the toes of the foot and changes your stride. Shoes that are not secured to your feet very well, like flip flops and slides, are also against doctor’s orders. These shoes force you to keep the shoes on your feet, which engages certain muscles and affects your natural stride.

If you want shoes that are healthy for your feet, look for shoes that have supportive soles and arch support. Your feet need support and they need cushioning to soften the impact. You also want shoes that are secured to your feet but not restrictive, so you can walk naturally. Your toes need plenty of room to stretch out, too.

When you know what to look for in shoes that are good for your feet, you won’t have trouble picking out sandals that won’t cause you any foot problems or pain. While you’re at it, pay attention to the straps. Sandal straps made with rough or abrasive materials can cause blisters. Plastic and rubber, for example, aren’t very gentle on the skin. Look for straps made with soft materials, such as nylon, if you want to avoid painful foot blisters.

Sandal Style

A woman with colorful nails wearing a pair of strappy sandals.

Sandals were probably one of the first shoe styles ever created. They were worn back in ancient times. The famous Greek historian Herodotus even documented sandal types in the ancient world. Greeks wore sandals made out of cattle skin, or leather, much like you probably do today. Sandals are the most commonly found type of ancient footwear discovered by archaeologists. There have been sandals found among Anasazi ruins in the American southwest, footwear dating back 8,000 years.

In modern times, sandals are considered to be the go-to summer footwear. They can be casual or dressy. You can even get super expensive high-end sandals from all the top designers. They’re perfect for showing off a cute pedicure but they’re made to keep feet cool in warm weather.

It’s a huge fashion no-no to wear socks with sandals and that’s primarily because it totally defeats the purpose of the design. Sandals are open and secured to your feet only with staps. They haven’t closed off anywhere. This allows natural airflow to keep your feet cool and dry even in the hottest environments.

They were made to be practical but now that they’re part of the fashion world, sandals can be everything from safe and comfortable to cute and casual to dangerously tall and extremely complicated and elegant. Play around with your sandal style. These shoes are going to keep evolving and changing and soon, you’ll have even more types of sandals to choose from when you’re putting together your looks.

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