man wearing sandals
Modern fashion sandals

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.[1][2] The Latin term derived from Greek sandálion (σανδάλιον), the diminutive of sándalon (σάνδαλον), of uncertain origin.[1] 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.


Esparto sandals from the 6th or 5th millennium BC found in Spain.
Pair of ancient leather sandals from Egypt.
Girl wearing sandals held to the feet by both thong and straps.

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.[3]

The ancient Egyptians wore sandals made of palm leaves, papyrus,[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[6] The sandal of Homer was the pédila (πέδιλα).[7][8] By the Classical Period, the general term for sandals was hypódēma (ὑπόδημα).[8] 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.[8] The rhaḯdia (ῥαΐδια) extended the straps of the sandal up the calf.[8] Some Greek sandals—like the women's tyrrēniká (τυρρηνικά)—employed wooden soles.[8] The effeminate baxea (πάξεια, páxeia) was usually made of willow leaves, twigs, or fibers and was associated with comic actors and philosophers.[9] 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.[10] 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.[8]

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.[8] 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.[8] 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.[8]

In his autobiography Edward Carpenter told how sandals came to be made in England:

While in India Harold Cox went in [18]85 or [18]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.[11]


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Anatomy of a sandal

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.



See also



  1. ^ a b "sandal, n.¹", Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023.
  2. ^ John Wycliffe, Bible, Mark, 6:9.
  3. ^ Robbins, William G. (2005). Oregon: This Storied Land. Oregon Historical Society Press. ISBN 978-0875952864.
  4. ^ Wilkinson (1847), p. 336.
  5. ^ Herodotus, History, Book 2, §37.
  6. ^ a b Peck (1898).
  7. ^ Homer, Iliad, Book 24, l. 340, and Odyssey, Book 8, l. 368.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Anderson (1870).
  9. ^ Yates & al. (1870).
  10. ^ Serv. in Virg. Ed. II. cc.
  11. ^ Edward Carpenter (1899) My Days and Dream, chapter 7 via
  12. ^ "Crochet Sandals". Archived from the original on 2014-07-24. Retrieved 2014-06-25.
  13. ^ "Sandal and Footwear Technology - SOURCE Hydration & Sandals". Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  14. ^ Huaraches: Mexican sandals Archived 2016-10-07 at the Wayback Machine from
  15. ^ DDR Museum: Sandals in GDR so called Jesuslatschen
  16. ^ "Have you ever heard about peruvian sandals Yankees?". Sylwia Travel Peru. 2014-10-29. Retrieved 2019-08-29.
  17. ^ "Traditional Andean Clothing". Threads of Peru. Retrieved 2019-08-29.
  18. ^ Cómo se hacen los Yanquis u ojotas en Perú (viral), retrieved 2019-08-29
  19. ^ Museum, Bata Shoe. "All About Shoes". Archived from the original on 29 December 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  20. ^ "closed-toe sandals". Retrieved 23 November 2016.