Ubiquitous in warmer seasons and regions, the sandal is an indisputable style staple. With a millennia-long history that dates back to ancient Egypt, it has continually evolved over time while remaining popular for its comfort, versatility and variety. This guide will explore the different ways of styling sandals for a wide spectrum of occasions. It will also delve into how one can find sandals that fit perfectly, as well as share tips on caring for your sandals.

What are sandals?

Women’s Dove two-tone double-strap sandals in dark brown - CHARLES & KEITH

Sandals, whether flat or heeled, are a type of footwear that leaves the top of the feet partially exposed. Typically featuring an open-toe design, the soles are secured to the feet by one or more straps.

Due to their revealing design, sandals are commonly worn during spring and summer, offering a cool and comfortable experience with their breathable quality. In tropical climates or warm regions, sandals become a wardrobe staple and the go-to footwear choice throughout the year.

Various types of sandals are available, including sport, thong, gladiator, and T-bar sandals. This diverse selection of designs ensures a perfect pair exists for every style preference, mood, and occasion.


History of sandals

Dating back thousands of years, sandals have one of the longest histories in footwear. The earliest evidence of sandals can be traced to ancient civilisations like Egypt, where they were crafted from plant fibres, papyrus, or leather. These designs aimed to shield the soles of the feet from hot sand and rough terrain.

The evolution of sandals continued over time, with ancient Greece assigning them social status and the Roman Empire contributing to their refinement.

In the early 20th century, sandals experienced a notable resurgence, coinciding with the popularity of biblical epics in film. Costume sandals made for the silver screen became a fashion trend, especially as leading actresses wore them both on and off the set. The Peekaboo style, showcasing toe cleavage, was highly sought-after during this period thanks to the introduction of colourful nail varnish.

Post-World War II, the mass production boom led to another comeback for sandals due to relaxed dress practices. Additionally, the new plastics industry made them affordable to produce. Ever since then, sandals have more or less remained a fashion staple in wardrobes all over the world. With modern innovations, a variety of styles is easily and economically produced, ensuring sandals' continued relevance in contemporary fashion.

How to style sandals?

Women’s v-strap thong sandals in black - CHARLES & KEITH

Everyday / Casual

With their breathable design, sandals are no doubt the perfect choice for effortless everyday style. Flat sandals are open-toed shoes that have little to no heel elevation, which makes them reliable, wearable options that you can easily slip on. They will easily dress up a simple tank top and denim bottom combination, while still providing all-day comfort. For those casual laidback days, Y-strapped thong sandals are the ultimate comfort pick. To infuse more personality into your ensembles, look for extra details like slingback straps or visually interesting buckles.


Women’s square toe trapeze heel sandals in black - CHARLES & KEITH

Office / Formal

Depending on the dress code, sandals might not always be appropriate for office settings. Wherever smart-casual attire is allowed, elevated styles are a safer bet. Heeled sandals offer a more polished look, especially when they come in tasteful strappy designs with minimal embellishments or buckles. They will pair well with trousers and skirts alike, and provide a flattering boost in stature. If walkability is a concern, slide sandals are a fabulous option — they feature a backless design you can easily slip on. Chic metallic accents and luxurious neutral finishes elevate the sandal silhouette to make them suitable for more formal occasions.


Women’s strappy blade heel sandals in black - CHARLES & KEITH

For A Date

The classic first-date look calls for a feminine dress, and to match that, strappy sandals are the top pick. The open-toed design feels flirty and chic, while the strappy construction accentuates and flatters the feet to create an elegant profile. Heeled options will add height and elongate the legs, which will go perfectly well with flowy dresses and skirts. To keep your look understated, go back to the basics — pick a classic, minimalist style with simple buckled straps and stiletto heels, and opt for black so styling them will be a breeze. Pair these versatile shoes with a little black dress and a sleek carrier to create a timeless date-night look.

Women’s linen espadrille thong sandals in beige - CHARLES & KEITH

Beach / Resort

For balmy weather and beachside vacations, there is nothing more classic than the beloved espadrille wedge. Their rustic woven soles exude a relaxed-chic charm that will add textural flair to linen separates and flowy fabrics, while the thick wedge heels provide stability for evening strolls. Easy to slip on and off during days by the pool, yet stylish enough to wear to dinner, this summer-time staple is wonderfully versatile. To add a refreshing pop of colour to your outfits, go for vibrant hues like a lime green or bubblegum pink.

If comfort is your priority, then sports sandals may be a better bet. Their sturdy rubber soles cushion the feet for maximum walkability, while the velcro straps make them a breeze to put on and take off. Their minimalist silhouette is incredibly versatile — they will look just as cool and chic when worn with jeans as with a maxi dress. To accommodate the water activities on your itinerary, look for lightweight nylon options.

Women’s Delphine leather metallic platform mules in silver - CHARLES & KEITH

Party / Evening Outings

Nights out call for more dramatic flair than usual, so statement footwear is a must. This is where platform sandals shine — their supersized soles give the shoes a sculptural quality that will stand out in any crowd. Not only will they deliver a flattering stature boost, but their sturdy soles make them surprisingly walkable. If you are going to be on the dancefloor, pick a high-shine iridescent finish or chunkier heels for maximum visual impact. have a distinctively edgy silhouette, and their multi-strap design serves a functional purpose of providing a secure fit. If you are going for an understated look, pick styles with slender heels and dainty straps.


Women’s Demi recycled polyester embellished ankle-strap sandals in cream - CHARLES & KEITH


Navigating wedding dress codes can be tricky, which is why the ever-versatile sandals are the go-to option for this occasion. Black-tie attire requires sophisticated gowns and polished dresses, which will match well with sleek heeled sandals in uncomplicated designs. A cocktail dress code allows for a relaxed elegance, which makes strappy heeled sandals a chic choice. For garden weddings held at outdoor venues, the dress code relaxes further to allow wedge sandals and airy open-toed designs. To embrace the bohemian spirit, pair your flowy dresses with sandals that feature charming details, like tie-around straps or woven soles.


How should sandals fit?

Finding the right fit

When it comes to finding a pair of comfortable sandals, getting the right fit is key. First and foremost, whether in terms of the length or width of the sandals, they should contour and fit the shape of your feet well. The sandals should comfortably accommodate the widest (width) and the longest (length) parts of your feet. If you find that your toes are sticking out over the edge at the sides or extending past the soles, then it means that this particular pair of sandals is too narrow for you.

On the flipside, if you find that your feet slide around too much when walking in them, that would mean that they are too loose. Either way, sandals that are too tight or loose will result in discomfort, and even cause blisters and irritations.

A little tip to consider is that your feet tend to expand throughout the day, hence for a more accurate and comfortable fit, it is better to try on shoes in the evening – this will help you find shoes that fit well all day. You can also determine whether you should size up or down. There should not be more than half a finger's worth of gap on the sides or the back of the sandals.

How to fit sandals better

Ball of foot cushion in grey - CHARLES & KEITH (Left)
Heel grip in grey - CHARLES & KEITH (right)
Foot care accessories — ball of cushion (left) and heel grippers (right) — to help protect your feet while ensuring a better fit for you.

To achieve a better fit, you can consider buying ball-of-foot cushions that not only provide additional cushioning but also prevent your feet from slipping around while you are walking. If your sandals come with back straps, you may want to get heel grippers to prevent them from sliding on and off your feet.

The bottom line is, never sacrifice comfort for style. Do not be tempted to get sandals in the wrong size, just because you like it — you may end up not wearing them at all because of how badly they fit.

Tips on caring for your sandals

Cleaning the insole

To clean the footbeds, wipe them down with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol to remove dirt and grime. More stubborn stains may require a mixture of baking soda, water and a squirt of dishwashing liquid, which you can rub onto the footbeds with an old toothbrush. Be sure to work it up into a lather before wiping it off with a damp cloth. Repeat once every few weeks to keep your shoes smelling fresh, and sprinkle the footbeds with a small amount of baby powder or baking soda to absorb moisture and odours in between washes.

Cleaning leather

Since leather is a more delicate material, exercise caution when handling it. Dampen a soft cloth with just a bit of water, before dipping it into saddle soap or a leather cleaner to create a lather. It is important that just a small amount of water is used, so it does not dry out the leather components of the sandals. Use even, circular motions and gentle force to clean stains away. You can also follow up afterwards with a leather conditioner to give the sandals a polished shine.

Cleaning faux leather

The general rule of thumb applies — use a damp, but not wet, cloth dipped in a mild soapy solution to clean, and wipe off any excess moisture with a microfibre cloth. Allow adequate time for the shoes to air-dry before wearing them again. Regular maintenance will ensure that your sandals last longer.

Cleaning suede

Due to the nature of their fibres, dirt can easily be brushed away in most cases with a bristled brush — for best results, purchase a dedicated suede brush that has special bristles designed for suede fibres. Tougher stains can be removed with a suede eraser, and oil stains can be removed with a light sprinkling of cornstarch. To protect the suede after it’s cleaned, spray it lightly with a suede protector, which will help prevent stains and water damage in the future.

There are so many types of sandals available today that it will be very difficult to find a shoe collection that does not include a pair — or many pairs — of this beloved shoe style. From flat sandals for everyday wear to dramatic platform sandals for glamorous formal events, the sandal’s endlessly adaptable silhouette makes it ideal for reinvention. This means that it can be made suitable for almost all occasions. We hope that this guide will help you find your perfect pair of sandals.