Want some sandals but aren’t sure of what to get? Here are all of the sandal styles you need to know.
Wearing boots and shoes all summer long? No thank you.
When the weather heats up, sandals are always on our mind. But did you know there are at least a dozen distinct styles of sandals to choose from?
I’ve collected all of them here, with examples of each style so you can choose the right one for your look and activity level.
What Makes a Sandal a Sandal?
A sandal is different from other types of shoes in two ways: It’s an open shoe — meaning that it doesn’t entirely enclose your foot — and it has straps.
That’s the basics of a sandal — but how those two qualities are achieved is what differentiates one sandal from another. Additionally, a designer can add new elements to a sandal as well, like a raised heel for fashion sandals, or a built-in sleeve sock for hiking sandals.
12 Types of Sandals Explained, With Examples
Here are a dozen examples of sandal styles for you to choose from:
The most readily available type of sandal, flip flops are inexpensive and often disposable. They have a single cross-bar thong at the front of the sandal, and no back straps.
While most flip flops are practically disposable, you can also find much nicer quality flip flops, like these leather sandals from Reef.
Slides are similar to flip flops in that they don’t have a back strap, but instead of a thong that separates your toes, they have one or two bands that cross over the entire top of your foot.
Chaco is a well-known brand for slides; their Chillos Slide is a great example of the style.
Sandals made for hiking are lighter than boots or shoes, and give your feet plenty of room to breathe.
They’re designed with lots of stability in mind and have more straps and adjustability than your standard sandal. Forksake’s Rogue sandal is a great example of this style.
Designed with long walks in mind, walking sandals are very similar to hiking sandals — i.e., they have fuller coverage and a more adjustable fit — but they’re equipped with even more padding in the midsole.
KURU is a prime example of this style.
Halfway between a running shoe and a sandal, you’ll find examples like HOKA’s Hopara All-Terrain.
They have much the same shape as a running shoe, with plenty of padding through the sole, but their open tops allow for more breathability.
Barefoot sandals are about as close as you can get to wearing no shoes at all.
They’re little more than an unpadded sole with straps over it, as exemplified by Xero Shoes’s Genesis sandals.
Huaraches (Mexican Sandals)
The term huaraches can actually refer to a wide variety of Mexican-made sandals, but the most popular version is a dressy, woven leather style.
Espiritu makes an awesome selection of this style of sandal for men.
Caligae (Roman Sandals)
Also known as gladiator sandals, the caligae, or Roman sandal, has a thin sole and leather straps that go up to and over the ankle. It’s a very fashion-forward (or is that fashion backwards?) style.
Artigiani del Cuoio makes a more modern example of the style.
Geta (Japanese Sandals)
Traditional Japanese sandals, or geta, are built on a thick wooden platform and held to your feet by a cloth thong.
You won’t see these around often in the United States, and will probably need to buy them from a Japanese supplier like the Kyoto Handicraft Center.
These sandals are modeled after a traditional wooden shoe.
Also known as T-strap sandals, these are halfway between a flip flop and a Roman sandal.
They have a central strap that runs up from the thong attachment and wraps around your ankle. Example: Eddie Bauer’s No Flop Flips.
Thong sandals are almost identical to flip flops, but the strap that goes over your foot reaches back farther and provides just a little bit more stability.
Check out Quiksilver’s Molokai Layback Sandals to get a feel for this style.
Your feet and lower legs can take a beating from sports or daily life; recovery sandals are made to give them a break.
Kane’s Revive shoes are a cross between a sandal and a shoe, offering coverage and breathability with tons of cushion.
Types of Materials for Sandals
Almost any of the above types of sandals can be made out of one or more materials. Here are the most commonly used materials for sandals:
Leather is the classiest material for sandals, from flip-flops to Roman sandals and beyond. If you want to dress well all summer long, leather sandals are the way to go.
Also known as vegan leather, this material gives a leather-like appearance without harming any animals in its production.
You won’t find sandals made entirely of cloth, but rather their straps. Activewear sandals often use cloth straps because they’re comfortable and quick drying.
Plastic is a cheap and abundantly available material for sandals. You’ll find it used widely across lower-priced sandals, but it’s often less durable than natural materials.
Rubber soles are fairly standard for sandals, but some are made entirely of rubber. They’re durable, but not always the most fashionable.
Crocs are the most recognizable all-foam sandals, but many other sandal types use foam as part of their sole. It adds a lot of padding and comfort.
Derived from the cork tree, this natural padding material is used in the soles of older-style sandals, as well as the ever-popular Birkenstocks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we go, here are the answers to the most commonly asked questions about men’s sandals.
Are men’s sandals fashionable?
Any sandal is only going to be as fashionable as the outfit you pair it with. For example, leather sandals can look great with a pair of chinos and a crisp button-down shirt.
What are Latino sandals called?
The most common sandals in Latin America are known as huaraches.
What is a Teva style sandal?
Tevas are a brand of sandals, not necessarily a style. They offer a wide range of styles and materials of sandals, as well as shoes and boots.
What are flip flop sandals?
Flip flops are named for the sound they make while you walk, and they’re notable for their lack of a back heel strap. They’re often inexpensive, and not particularly durable compared to other types of sandals.
Sandals are a fantastic footwear choice for warm weather! What sandal style is best for you depends on your needs and preferences.
What sandal style is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!