Sandals are an open type of footwear, 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 oldest known sandals (and the oldest known footwear of any type) were discovered in Fort Rock Cave in the U.S. state of Oregon; radiocarbon dating of the sagebrush bark from which they were woven indicates an age of at least 10,000 years.
The word sandal is of Greek origin - σάνδαλον : sándalon. The ancient Greeks distinguished between:
The ancient Egyptians wore sandals made of palm tree-leaves and papyrus. They are sometimes observable on the feet of Egyptian statues and in reliefs, being carried by sandal-bearers. According to Herodotus, sandals of papyrus were a part of the required and characteristic dress of the Egyptian priests.
In Ancient Greece sandals were the most common type of footwear that women wore and spent most of their time at home. The Greek sandals featured a multitude of straps with which they securely fastened to the foot. The top of the sandals were usually of colored leather. The soles were made of cattle skin, of even better quality and made up of several layers. In Ancient Rome residents used to carve their boots and sandals with elaborate designs.
In Ancient Levant sandals ("Biblical sandals") were made from non-processed leather and dry grass, and had strings or ropes made of simple, cheap materials. Occasionally golden or silver beads and even gems were added.
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.