If you’re nervous about picking your next summer sandals after two false-start summers you’re probably not alone. When choosing summer footwear, there are a couple of routes you can follow. You can opt for something like a pair of Birks that will repay you in durability for at least a few summers, but may not be the most thrilling option. Maybe you want to zhuzh up last summer’s sundress with some chunky platforms? Perhaps, you are on the hunt for something that will suffice for everything from park picnics to morning commutes?
In order to find the best options for every shopper, we spoke to experts from the worlds of fashion, beauty, trend forecasting, and even outdoor exploring about their favourite sandals for every kind of occasion. Read on to find out the best slides, the best leather sandals, and the £30 brand recommended by four separate women.
Best overall sandal
Tevas — originally a water-sport shoe — were once associated with hiking hippies of the 1980s. But in recent years they’ve become the summertime version of a pair of Converse.
Their waterproof adjustable straps, rubber soles, and sewn bindings make them a brilliant beach sandal, but you’ll also spot them pounding city pavements paired with linen shorts and maxi skirts. Maddy Alford, an American fashion editor living in London has been wearing them for years. As has Laura Capon, a beauty editor who’s glad she pushed through initial “Jesus sandals” jokes from friends who later caved and bought a pair for themselves. Outdoors explorer and author Sian Anna Lewis wears them for walking and camping trips, appreciating not only for their “grippy soles and adjustable straps,” but also their affordability.
Tevas also solved a major styling question for journalist and motivational speaker Ella Rose Dove. After struggling for years with buckled leather sandals that would slip off her prosthetic foot, she now swears by them. “As an amputee, comfort and security in footwear is key for me, so I love the secure and tight fit that the velcro of Teva sandals brings.” Her favourite colourway is beige and sand but she’s also eyeing up the rainbow edition (an edition Capon already owns, along with classic black). They run in sizes 3-9 for women’s feet, but if you’ve got larger feet you can buy a mens’ size 6-13 in black, khaki and rust. For those seeking something with extra edge, Capon also recommends the Original Universal’s bolder, more utilitarian cousin, the Teva Hurricane.
Best slingback sandal
For the last four years, luxury accessories and sleepwear designer Karen Mabon has shopped for sandals in Clarks. “As I get older I’ve started only buying shoes from shoe specialists. I’ve had bad experiences with having my feet cut to ribbons in the summer, and I’m just not doing it any more.” She admits that Clarks designs can be “a little hit and miss,” but stresses that every so often, the brand releases something with a high-end feel, but serious comfort built in. “They design shoes for feet” — not just for the fashion statement.
Mabon’s had a pair of Orianna strap sandals for years. She likes that they’re an affordable dupe for Marni Fussbett slingbacks, and that they’ve withstood “serious mileage” while trudging round various European cities on holidays. “And they really do last without peeling or deteriorating — I think it’s because older people buy from Clarks, and when doing so expect their shoes to last for years, not a single season.” They come in black, brown, or white leather, and in sizes 3-8.
Best textile sandal
Made from recycled water bottles and vintage upcycled bandanas, these handmade sustainable sandals are a firm favourite for PR Rebecca Thomas. Her favourite feature is their “perfectly imperfect” nature. The cotton straps fray slightly over time — only in the right places — meaning each pair looks unique and worn-in, like a well-worn denim jacket. Thomas promises the rest of the sandal is ultra durable. “I’ve owned these for a year and a half and haven’t rebought as they aren’t showing any signs of wear to the soles, despite the fact I’m always reaching for them as the sun comes out.” They come in 22 colours, but Thomas prefers the leopard print and black clash-print version because of its versatility in her wardrobe. “They can be the statement piece within a plain outfit, and they can toughen up a feminine look.”
They come in sizes EU 36-42, and while the Arizona website warns size up for this style, Thomas tells me she stuck to her usual size when purchasing and was satisfied with the fit, adding that the adjustable velcro straps are a serious benefit when her feet feel swollen on sunny days.
Best suede sandal
When she’s not in her Tevas this summer, Capon tells me she’ll be wearing these. “I have the UGG sandal slippers at home too,” she adds, “and these Goldenstars are similarly comfy and chunky.” Citing “dad-at-Disney-chic” as her ideal sandal style, Capon prioritises a supportive design — something UGG’s Goldenstars provide via a textile cushioned sole, and a midsole made from EVA (a comfy, supportive foam that’s often used to make running shoes springier and spongier). They also run from a UK size 3 up to a size 9, with two adjustable straps.
Best rubber sandal
A favourite for Lucila Saldana, Footwear and Accessories Editor at trend forecasting agency WGSN, is these GANNI recycled mules. She thinks more generally that rubber shoes like this will become a universal choice as weather patterns change. She predicts that soon we’ll all be opting for materials and styles that have “perennial qualities.” Saldana also likes these mules for their “mono-materiality” and recyclability — i.e., they’re made from recycled rubber. These are available in muted, versatile shades of rose-quartz pink, khaki, and black, though the latter is likely best-suited to everyday wear. They’re genderless, and come in sizes UK 2-11.
Best leather sandal
Alford says she’s flirting with the idea of “ugly-cute” fisherman sandals this year. “Prada came out with a version this year that I think will take off and finally cement the resurgence of the trend.” But she’s planning to go for these 1990s re-releases from the Dr. Marten archives — a style she owned back in the 1990s as a child.
It’s worth noting that like Dr Martens boots, these may be tough to break in. Persevere with plasters and applications of Neutral Dubbin leather softening treatment. Once they give in to the shape of your feet, they’ll likely be the comfiest sandals you’ve ever had.
Best flip-flop sandal
Slow-fashion advocate and writer Aja Barber has been wearing Birks since she was 13, explaining “nothing is more stylish than comfort to me.” These sandals are modeled on the Birkenstocks’ notoriously comfortable cork slides, but made from shock-absorbent EVA plastic that’s washable, shock-absorbent, and anatomically modelled to fit footbeds properly. They also come in half-sizes, ranging from UK 2.5 to 11.5 and are £25 cheaper than classic Birkenstock leather slides — meaning you benefit from hundreds of years of footwear technology on a budget.
Best slide sandal
Pierre-Alexandre Fillaire (an artist, fashion consultant, and stylist whose conceptual creations have appeared on the cover of Vogue) recommends these sub-£50 Yeezy lookalikes, available in size UK 6-14. “These slides, for me, are revolutionary. They’re perfect. The slides of the future. They look like fucking metaverse slides.” Pierre also promises these shoes can go with “anything you want to wear.”
They point out that designer brands without footwear lines often pick these shoes for runway shoes — something that’s raised their profile even further. They are particularly enthused now that the brand has released an open-toe, dynamic shape for summer days, telling me, “I love that they’re fucking trashy. And even better? They’re affordable.”
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