Sandals can be classified as the simplest of all shoes, but anyone who has struggled to find just the right pair of sandals for their next vacation knows that classification is far from true. Sandals are shoes that are largely open and are attached to the foot via straps or loops of material. They usually consist of a thin sole and are ideal for environments where you need protection for your feet but may not want the bulk of a pair of shoes. Sandals can be practical, like the flip-flops you grab before heading to the shower, or fashionable, like a pair of wedged sandals that accent a cute sundress perfectly. They come in so many different styles and shapes that your entire wardrobe could be entirely populated by sandals and you would never run out of things to wear. But their usefulness only makes it that much harder to find the right pair when shopping for new sandals.
There are plenty of things to consider when looking for sandals. Are you looking for a pair of sandals that can stand up to the wear-and-tear of hiking mountains, or are you looking to grace the catwalk with a pair of unbelievably delicate sandals that catch the light just so? Do you want a sturdy material like leather or are you looking for waterproof materials like plastics and synthetics? Even once you know the type of sandal you have in mind, there are still countless options on the market today, and it is especially difficult to order shoes online. After all, how can you be sure you’ll like the style when they arrive? And how can you ensure that they’ll fit just right?
That’s where we come in. We’ve done the research on all things shoes and sandals so you can check out the best of the best without spending hours scrolling through websites. Not only have we narrowed down the playing field for you, each of our in-depth reviews draws from authentic customer feedback, so you can have a better idea of what you’re getting into with each pair of shoes. Whether you’re looking for fashion, function, or a mix of the two, we’ve got you covered.
But that’s enough about us, let’s go over some of the different types of sandals.
Types of Sandals
Categorizing sandals is a tad more difficult than categorizing many of the other shoe types on the market. While most sandals have a very similar base premise, their design and functionality can vary wildly from shoe to shoe, and from manufacturer to manufacturer. Still, here are some of the more popular sandal categories to consider when shopping for a new pair of sandals:
- Flip-flops: Also know as thongs, slip-ons, and a wide range of colloquial terms, flip-flops get their name from the sound they make while you walk. These shoes usually have a Y-shaped strap that is situated between the big toe and the second toe, and this sandal design does not come with a back strap, allowing the back of the shoe to “flop” as you move. While flip-flops are considered some of the most basic sandals out there, their flexibility makes them ideal for most outdoor activities, or walking along the boardwalk during your next vacation.
Wedges or heeled sandals: Wedge sandals get their name from the height and shape of their heels. Wedge sandals include the strap-based system that makes a sandal a sandal but are designed in such a way to prioritize fashion over function. With a wedge-shaped base that acts like a high heel but with more support, these fashionable sandals come in every color and material combination imaginable to pair with whatever outfit you choose.
Hiking sandals: These sandals take functionality and marry it with a beautiful design that provides support through rigorous hikes or off-road exploration. These sandals usually have a system of interlocking straps that provide support to your feet while still allowing airflow, helping to reduce things like athlete’s foot. Unlike many other sandals, which are made with flat soles, hiking sandals have rubber soles with grip not unlike hiking boots.
Gladiator sandals: No, this doesn’t mean you have to fight to the death for the entertainment of Rome. Gladiator sandals are so named because of their resemblance to ancient Roman sandals, mainly thanks to multiple straps that can rise above the ankle or as high as the knee. These sandals are largely used for fashion purposes, and the soles can be on the thinner side.
Yoga sandals: Yoga sandals are made to stay on your feet while going through each asana, and as such usually have thongs that go between each toe, as opposed to one or two thongs on a flip-flop. These sandals are traditionally made with a fabric covering of some kind and are lightweight and flexible to accommodate the practice.
Fashion sandals: This is a rather wide, catch-all category that includes any sandals primarily used for fashion over activity. These sandals usually have flat soles or a slight heel and can vary in make and design depending on the target audience. Most fashion sandals are not made for use through the entire season and are instead made with infrequent use in mind. However, these sandals come in a wide away of makes and styles that allow you to choose the right pair of sandals to match your outfit, making them invaluable for the fashion-forward individual.
Choosing the Right Pair of Sandals
Every time warmer weather comes around, we all make the same mistake of purchasing the first pair of sandals we see and hoping they will last us for the rest of the summer. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, especially when reaching for the mass-produced, cheep sandals that populate department stores everywhere. If you’re looking to invest in a pair of sandals that will last longer, fit better, and look fantastic, you’re not alone. But how can you choose the right pair of sandals for your unique need, while still making sure they won’t wear out or cause blisters all summer long?
The first thing to consider is what you want to use your sandals for. If you’re an active individual looking to swap out your trusty sneakers for something a bit more breathable, a pair of hiking sandals may be the right investment for you. If, on the other hand, you can’t stand shoes and would rather kick them off at any given opportunity, a pair of slip-ons or flip-flops will allow you to free your feet while still protecting your heels. If you’re looking for just the right pair of shoes for your next fashion show or a big event, you’ll want to look into heeled sandals and more fashion-forward makes to match the occasion. For travel, good walking sandals are needed. Be sure to read our reviews of the best walking sandals for men and the best walking sandals for women.
Once you know the kind of sandal you have in mind, the next thing to consider is fit. Unfortunately, most shoe companies stick to a very set-in-stone sizing classification for their shoes, so you should check their recommended measurements before picking out a shoe size. You’ll also want to measure the width and height of your feet and see if the shoe has adjustable straps. Adjustable straps not only allow the sandals to conform to your feet, they allow you to tighten up your shoes as the straps stretch out, meaning you won’t have to fight against loose straps all summer long. If you can’t find a size that works for you from a particular company, you can always contact them to see if they do specialty sizes. Be sure to check customer reviews for sizing comments as well, as there are plenty of people who have come before you and know the ins and outs of each company’s sizing chart.
Finally, you want to make sure you’re investing in a sandal that’s worthwhile for you. We say “worthwhile for you,” because the lifetime of a sandal is far from a pair of sneakers or boots, but sometimes these shoes don’t have to last for decades to be worth your while. This is where reviews and customer feedback comes in handy, as they can help you narrow down your choices significantly. It can also be helpful to listen to the experts (that’s us) on what the best kinds of sandals on the market are, so you can rest easy knowing you’re investing in a pair of sandals that will help make the warmer months of the year even more spectacular.
Hit the Beach
No matter if you’re sizing up your next mountain or looking for a nice stroll along the beach at sunset, a reliable pair of sandals can help you make new strides toward summer fun. From the simplicity of the flip-flop to the complexity of a hiking sandal and everything in between, sandals offer comfort and freedom to their wearers, and are perfect for anyone looking to free their feet and just explore. No matter the style of sandal you’re looking for, there are countless options available on the market, and dozens of styles to choose from. That’s why we’re here to help you get the best out of your sandal shopping experience, so you can spend less time stressing about choosing the right sandals and more time strolling along a sand-covered beach, taking in the sights. No matter your needs, we’re here to help you choose a pair of sandals that will make your summer vacation incredible. So strap on your newest pair of sandals, make sure you pack some sunscreen, and hit the beach with confidence knowing you have the best footwear available on the market today.
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