Sandals are an open type of shoe, consisting of a sole held to the wearer's foot by straps going over the instep and around the ankle. Sandals can also have a heel. While the distinction between sandals and other types of footwear can sometimes be blurry (as in the case of huaraches—the woven leather footwear seen in Mexico, and peep-toe pumps), the common understanding is that a sandal leaves all or most of the foot exposed. People may choose to wear sandals for several reasons, among them comfort in warm weather, economy (sandals tend to require less material than shoes and are usually easier to construct), and as a fashion choice. Usually, people wear sandals in warmer climates or during warmer parts of the year in order to keep their feet cool and dry. The risk of developing athlete's foot is lower than with enclosed shoes, and the wearing of sandals may be part of the treatment regimen for such an infection.
The English word sandal derives under influence from Middle French sandale from the Latin sandalium and is first attested in Middle English in the form sandalies. The Latin term derived from Greek sandálion (σανδάλιον), the diminutive of sándalon (σάνδαλον), of uncertain origin. In Greek, the names referred to particular styles of women's sandals rather than being the general word for the category of footwear. Similarly, in Latin, the name was also used for slippers, the more common term for Roman sandals being solea, whence English sole. The English words sand and sandalwood are both false cognates.
Although some other kinds of footwear like carbatina are as simple to make, sandals are the oldest known footwear at present. Pairs of sagebrush sandals discovered in 1938 at Fort Rock Cave in Oregon, USA, were later dated to 10,500 to 9,300 years ago.
The ancient Egyptians wore sandals made of palm leaves, papyrus, and—at least in grave goods—gold. Egyptian statues and reliefs show sandals both on the feet and carried by sandal-bearers. According to Herodotus, papyrus footwear was part of the required dress of the Egyptian priests. The sandals of Mesopotamia ("Biblical sandals") were typically made of rawhide and straw (dried grasses). The wealthy sometimes used gems or gold or silver beads on the thongs.
Straw shoes, sometimes in the form of sandals and sometimes carbatinae, were ubiquitous Chinese footwear in antiquity.
In Ancient Greece, sandalia proper were a kind of sandal principally worn by women. The sole was made of wood, cork, or leather and the upper chiefly consisted of a strap between the big toe and second toe and another around the ankle. The sandal of Homer was the pédila (πέδιλα). By the Classical Period, the general term for sandals was hypódēma (ὑπόδημα). Most forms included a strap across the toes (ζυγὸς, zygòs), another strap between the big and second toe, and a third across the instep (lingula); this last was frequently made with metal shaped like a heart or leaf. The rhaḯdia (ῥαΐδια) extended the straps of the sandal up the calf. Some Greek sandals—like the women's tyrrēniká (τυρρηνικά)—employed wooden soles. The effeminate baxea (πάξεια, páxeia) was usually made of willow leaves, twigs, or fibers and was associated with comic actors and philosophers. The tragedians wore the cothurnus (κόθορνος, kóthornos), sandal-like boots that rose above the midcalf and typically incorporated platform soles that led to others wearing them to appear taller. By the Hellenistic Period, some sandals show evidence of extreme ornamentation. One found from the settlements in Greek Crimea was a platform design with 12 separate layers in its sole and gold decoration.
Because of the general discomfort of the typical upper-class calceus, it was standard in ancient Rome to switch to sandals (solea or crepida) or slippers at home and it was considered an oddity of Augustus that he seldom did so. However, wearing comfortable shoes in public was considered effeminate and discussion of the habit was used as an insult by politicians and writers. Scipio the Elder, Verres, Antony, Germanicus, and Caligula were all pointedly reproached for doing so and the stigma did not die off until at least the reign of Hadrian. Because shoes were removed when reclining on couches to dine, it was normal to wear slippers or sandals to meals even at other houses. Because of the stigma, however, when a litter carried by slaves could not be used between the two houses, it was considered proper to walk to the other house in calcei while carrying the shoes to be removed under the arm. The guest would change in the entryway and then have slaves remove the second pair of shoes in the dining room.
In his autobiography Edward Carpenter told how sandals came to be made in England:
While in India Harold Cox went in 85 or 86 for a tour in Cashmere, and from Cashmere he sent me a pair of Indian sandals. I had asked him, before he went out, to send some likely pattern of sandals, as I felt anxious to try some myself. I soon found the joy of wearing them. And after a little time I set about making them. I got two or three lessons from W. Lill, a bootmaker friend in Sheffield, and soon succeeded in making a good many pairs for myself and various friends. Since then the trade has grown into quite a substantial one. G. Adams took it up at Millthorpe in 1889; making, I suppose, about a hundred or more pairs a year; and since his death it has been carried on at the Garden City, Letchworth.
A sandal may have a sole made from rubber, leather, wood, tatami or rope. It may be held to the foot by a narrow thong that generally passes between the first and second toe, or by a strap or lace, variously called a latchet, sabot strap or sandal, that passes over the arch of the foot or around the ankle. A sandal may or may not have a heel (either low or high) or heel strap.
- Barefoot sandals, footwear with the appearance of sandals but lacking a sole.
- Caligae, a heavy-soled classical Roman military shoe or sandal for marching, worn by all ranks up to and including centurion
- Carbatina, open footwear worn in ancient Greece, Italy and the Middle East
- Clog can be formed as a heavy sandal, having a thick, typically wooden sole.
- Crochet sandals
- Fisherman sandal is a type of T-bar sandal originally for men and boys. The toes are enclosed by a number of leather bands interwoven with the central length-wise strap that lies along the instep. An adjustable cross strap or bar is fastened with a buckle. The heel may be fully enclosed or secured by a single strap joined to the cross strap. The style appears to have originated in France.
- Flip-flops are typically cheap and suitable for beach, pool, or locker room wear
- Geta, a classical Japanese form of elevated thong, traditionally of cryptomeria wood; the crosspiece is referred to as a ha, which translates to tooth
- Grecian sandal, sandals from Greece and Salento (Italy), a (generally flat or low) sole attached to the foot by interlaced straps crossing the toes and instep, and fastening around the ankle. A similar style is sometimes called gladiator sandal
- High-heeled sandal, a type of sandal with an elevated heel. They allow the wearer to have an open shoe while being less casual or more formal, depending on the style of the sandal.
- Hiking and trekking sandals are designed for hiking or trekking in hot and tropical climates, usually using robust rubber outsole, suitable for any terrain, and softer EVA or Super EVA foam insole. These sandals are usually shaped to support the arched contour of the foot. The straps are usually made of polyester or nylon webbing for quick drying after exposure to water and to minimize perspiration. Also suitable for many other adventure sports and activities where quick drying and reduced perspiration is required, including rafting, traveling, paragliding, skydiving.
- Ho Chi Minh sandals is one name for a homemade or cottage industry footwear, the soles cut from an old automobile tire and the straps cut from an inner tube. Made and worn in many countries, they became wider known in the US as worn by the rural people of Indochina during the Vietnam War, leading to the name.
- Huarache, a Mexican sandal, with sole made of a tire tread, or huarache (running shoe), a flat sandal used by minimalist runners.
- Jelly sandals or jelly shoes were originally a version of the classic fisherman sandal made in PVC plastic. They were invented in 1946 by Frenchman Jean Dauphant in response to a post-war leather shortage. Later designs featured translucent soft plastic in bright colours; hence the later name of jelly sandals or jellies. Recently, a whole range of styles have been produced in this material, mainly for women and girls, but the classic unisex design remains popular.
- Jipsin, a traditional Korean sandal made of straw
- Ojota, an extremely durable Peruvian sandal made of recycled tires that is traditionally worn in the Andes by Quechua people.
- Paduka are the ancient (as old as the time of the Ramayana) Indian toe-knob sandals. They are not really worn on a daily basis now except by monks or for ceremonial purposes.
- Patten, a type of oversized clog often with a wooden sole or metal device to elevate the foot and increase the wearer's height or aid in walking in mud
- Roman sandal, a sandal held to the foot by a vamp composed of a series of equally spaced, buckled straps
- Saltwater sandals, a flat sandal developed in the 1940s as a way of coping with wartime leather shortages, primarily worn by children
- Soft foam sandals, invented in 1973, are made from closed-cell soft foam and uses surgical tubing for the straps. They are sold primarily along the Texas Gulf Coast in beach side gift shops.
- T-bar sandals, primarily for children, with an enclosed heel and toe. It is fastened by a cross-wise strap or bar secured by a buckle, or more recently by Velcro. A length-wise strap extends from the vamp and joins the cross-strap over the arch of the foot to form a T shape. A common variant has two cross-straps. The toe is often pierced with a pattern of holes or slots. The sole is low-heeled and usually of crepe rubber, stitched-down to the upper. First seen in Europe and America in the early 20th century, by the 1950s they were very common for boys and girls up to their teens, but are now mainly worn by much younger children. This style or similar styles are also called "Mary Jane" shoes.
- Waraji, Japanese straw sandals common in the Edo period
- Wörishofer, a ladies' sandal with a cork wedge heel
- Zōri, a flat and thonged Japanese sandal, usually made of straw, cloth, leather, or rubber
Yoga sandals have thongs that pass between all of the toes.
Low heel sandals
Sandals with a toe thong
- "sandal, n.¹", Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023.
- John Wycliffe, Bible, Mark, 6:9.
- Robbins, William G. (2005). Oregon: This Storied Land. Oregon Historical Society Press. ISBN 978-0875952864.
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- Herodotus, History, Book 2, §37.
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- Anderson (1870).
- Yates & al. (1870).
- Serv. in Virg. Ed. II. cc.
- Edward Carpenter (1899) My Days and Dream, chapter 7 via Edwardcarpenter.net
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- Wilkinson (1847), Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, vol. II, London: John Murray.
- Yates, James; et al. (1870), "Baxeae or Baxae", A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, London: John Murray.