No shoe collection is complete without sandals. Characterised by openwork uppers, they are traditionally worn in warmer climates or during the warmer months in seasonal regions. However, when worn with thick socks and leg warmers, you can step out in them even when the temperature drops. With their relaxed aesthetic, they make for great everyday casual footwear. Yet, this versatile shoe style can be elevated by various design elements to become suitable for more formal settings. From the ubiquitous flat sandal to the fierce gladiator sandal and the artisanal Huarache sandal, there is a version for everyone and any time.

Flat sandals

Women’s patent crossover strap sandals - CHARLES & KEITH

Flat sandals are open-toed shoes with little to no heel elevation, providing a level surface for the wearer’s feet. They are typically designed to keep the wearer’s feet close to the ground, creating a stable and comfortable walking experience. Flat sandals come in a wide range of styles, designs, and materials, making them suitable for various occasions, though they are most commonly worn in casual settings.

Flat sandals are typically chosen for casual settings during the spring and summer seasons, thanks to their openwork design. This feature ensures your feet stay cool and comfortable, whether you are heading to a fancy café for brunch or hitting the beach for some tanning action. With almost negligible low block heels, you can effortlessly walk long distances in them.

Pair these sandals with a maxi dress for a boho-chic look that elevates your weekend style. Alternatively, fully embrace the casual aesthetic by pairing them with a classic and timeless pair of denim shorts.


Heeled sandals

On the contrary, heeled sandals are open-toed shoes that are elevated off the ground with an incline. The heels are raised above the balls of the feet, accentuating the calf muscles and creating the illusion of longer legs. Typically measuring greater than 3cm, the height of the heels can extend up to 15cm. There are many different types of heel shapes, ranging from sleek stiletto heels to chunky block ones and artistic sculptural designs.

Women’s patent crossover-strap heeled sandals in black - CHARLES & KEITH
Women’s Trice metallic accent block heel sandals in black - CHARLES & KEITH
Women’s Celestine sculptural heel strappy sandals in black - CHARLES & KEITH
Different types of heeled sandals: Stiletto heel (left), Block heel (middle), Sculptural heel (right)

Heeled sandals are generally considered to be more suitable for formal settings and special occasions, adding an elegant and polished touch to the wearer’s look. However, the appropriateness of heeled sandals in business casual attire is still widely debated. There are instances where it is perfectly acceptable to wear them to work, particularly in more relaxed industries like fashion or media. Yet, it ultimately depends on your work environment and office policy. If in doubt, seek clarification from your HR department or err on the side of caution by sticking to classic closed-toe pumps.

To ensure optimal comfort when wearing heeled sandals, use cushioned pads, heel grips, and anti-slip insoles — these foot care accessories provide extra support and stability, making walking in heeled sandals much easier.


Platform sandals

Featuring a bolder silhouette than traditional sandals, platform sandals are set on thicker soles with heels. Not to be confused with the level soles of flatform sandals, platform sandals are elevated on distinct, arched heel shapes, which are most typically chunky block heels.

Women’s Elvina buckled platform sandals in white - CHARLES & KEITH
Women’s Jadis chunky flatform sandals in chalk - CHARLES & KEITH
Difference between flatform sandals (left) & platform sandals (right)

Platform sandals create a striking visual contrast by juxtaposing upsized soles against dainty straps. Depending on the shape and type of sole, platform sandals can shapeshift to complement various aesthetics — rubbery soles are suited for casual wear, wedge soles for more feminine strappy styles, and chunky ridged soles introduce an edgy element to your outfits.

A more comfortable alternative to other heeled options, platform sandals have a wider and sturdier base that makes them easier to walk in. Offering a flattering stature boost, the eye-catching profile delivers visual impact to any ensemble you pair them with. To lean into the sculptural aspect of platform sandals, look for standout details like asymmetrical straps, ruching or an intriguing texture. Vibrant hues and iridescent finishes are sure to make a statement, while gem embellishments exude glamour. To go the classic route, stick to minimal silhouettes in versatile neutrals you can dress up or down. Either way, platform sandals strike the perfect balance between elevated and casual styles, with a timeless appeal that can be refreshed over and over again.


Wedge sandals

Women’s linen Espadrille wedges - CHARLES & KEITH

Instantly recognisable by their thick raised soles that extend all the way from front to back — the heel is spread out across the entire length of the shoe — wedge sandals are loved for good reason. First, they promise a steady stride, as the solid raised soles ensure you are less prone to wobbling and twisting your ankle. They also offer a flattering height boost on top of comfort and stability, making them great for all-day wear.

One of the most popular variations of wedge sandals is the espadrille wedge sandals or espadrille wedges. Known as a seasonal classic, the rustic woven soles immediately bring to mind images of seaside strolls and alfresco dinners by the beach. Lightweight and incredibly versatile, they can be easily dressed up or down, effortlessly taking you from sandy shores to city streets. This is why espadrille wedges are a must-have in every fashion-lover’s summer vacation packing list. With a myriad of designs and colours to choose from, wedge sandals have evolved from being just a spring-summer staple to being appropriate for work.


Women’s linen espadrille thong sandals - CHARLES & KEITH

Gladiator sandals

Women’s Gabine denim gladiator sandals in blue - CHARLES & KEITH

Gladiator sandals are open-toed shoes with multiple straps running across the foot and a single strap that runs perpendicular down the centre, connecting all of the others to a buckled ankle strap. They got their name from the footwear of ancient Roman gladiators, which they are designed to resemble. Gladiator sandals only became popular in the fashion world when they appeared all over the runways in the sixties, and since then, their popularity has waxed and waned.

Although they are usually attached to one ankle strap, they are sometimes attached to multiple straps that can extend up to the knee. For day-to-day activities, the former might be a better option as they are easier to put on and take off. Conversely, knee-high gladiator sandals will do the trick if you are heading to a major music festival and would like to make a bold fashion statement. Other modern iterations include gladiator sandals with block heels, thick platform soles, and studded metallic accents that add a touch of glamour.


Thong sandals

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

Thong sandals, also known as flip-flops, are flat-soled shoes distinguished by a Y-shaped front strap. Popularised in the 1990s, they feature a minimalist silhouette and a laid-back aesthetic that mirror the decade’s cultural shift towards more relaxed and informal fashion.

While traditionally associated with casual occasions or beachwear, their style has evolved over time, gaining wider acceptance in more formal settings. This evolution is noticeable in new variations that are heeled, embellished, and equipped with slingback straps, elevating thong sandals to a more stylish and glamorous status over the years.

Wearing thong sandals for an extended period can lead to discomfort. Positioned between the big and second toes, the thong straps may continually rub against the skin, causing irritation, pain, and even blisters.

To address and alleviate this discomfort, some thong sandals incorporate padded thong straps into their designs. However, there are additional measures you can take to enhance the comfort of your thong sandals. They include buying your true size to ensure a snug fit, softening the sandal strap with beeswax to improve comfort, and adding arch support with cushioned pads and inserts.


T-bar sandals

Women’s Gabine leather thong sandals in brown - CHARLES & KEITH

Especially popular in the noughties, the T-bar silhouette has since cemented itself as a mainstay in casualwear. Featuring straps that are crossed in a perpendicular T formation, this minimalist shoe style is understated with a visually interesting twist. Strappier variations feature buckled ankle-straps that ensure a more secure fit, while slip-on designs are comfortable and easy to wear. With their open-toed breathability, they are perfect for casual outings. For a dressier option, look for subtle metallic accents and polished neutrals, which will go well with flowy dresses and linen pants alike, as they have a resort-ready aesthetic. Or, consider a playful hue to inject a pop of colour that is still wearable.

Strappy sandals

Featuring an open-toed design with accompanying straps across the top of the foot or ankle — be it thick or thin, minimal or multiple — strappy sandals have long been considered a summer style essential that will complement a range of outfits, from flowy dresses to swimwear.

Women’s Meadow strappy toe-ring sandals - CHARLES & KEITH
Women’s Selene Strappy sandals - CHARLES & KEITH
Women’s strappy trapeze heel sandals - CHARLES & KEITH
Available in a wide range of designs that feature a multitude of heel shapes and heights, the strappy sandal is a style staple and beloved for its versatility.

Over the years, strappy sandals have only grown in popularity. A wider spectrum of designs and styles has made them more than just a warm-weather staple — they are now shoes that can be worn for dinner dates, weddings and even black-tie events. From heeled to flats, edgy gladiator sandals to barely-there options and over-the-top tie-around designs, there is a strappy sandal for everyone. Whatever your style preferences, strappy sandals have become the very definition of understated chic and effortless style, the shoe of choice when you want to look instantly put together with minimal effort.

The next time you are looking to get a pair of strappy sandals, here are some things you can look out for to ensure better comfort and wearability. One, ensuring a good fit. Beyond just the right shoe size, do also ensure that the straps fit comfortably on your feet. Another thing you can do is to add a ball of foot cushion into your shoes for extra comfort. Lastly, it is always good to keep some plasters or silicone tape on hand to minimise abrasion from the straps rubbing against your feet.


Sport sandals

Women’s Romilly puffy sandals - CHARLES & KEITH

Sport sandals are flat-soled shoes characterised by easy-to-wear velcro straps and hard-wearing rubber soles, traditionally utilised for practical purposes like hiking and other outdoor activities. However, with the rise of athleisure, a fusion of street fashion and athletic wear, sport sandals are becoming a more popular choice for everyday wear.

With this transformation, sport sandals are no longer purely designed for sports usage. More variations have surfaced in the market designed for urban everyday wear, leaning greatly into aesthetic appeal rather than function. Hence, it is important to look out for the product specifications when you are buying a pair of sport sandals to ensure they align with your intended purpose.

Sport sandals are available in various designs, such as pairs with ankle straps and slingback straps, all of which provide a highly secure fit. When it comes to styling sport sandals, there are no strict rules. If velcro straps seem too casual and you desire a more polished look, opt for faux leather alternatives. These options often come with chunky ridged soles, offering a slight height boost without compromising comfort.


Slide sandals

Women’s Trice metallic accent slide sandals - CHARLES & KEITH

Slide sandals — also known as slip-on sandals — live up to their name, featuring wide straps that cross horizontally over the top of the feet and a backless design, making them easy to slip on and off. They are never closed at the front, allowing the toes to remain visible and increasing breathability during the hot spring and summer months. This sets them apart from slippers, which usually feature closed toes and are more commonly designed for indoor rather than outdoor wear.

Similar to thong sandals or flip-flops, they are well-suited for casual occasions and beachwear but have gained wider acceptance in more formal settings. Dressier variations include slide sandals with printed, embellished, and even woven straps that elevate the simple and minimalist design.


Huarache sandals

Huarache sandals have been around since the 1930s, and are rooted in traditional Mexican craftsmanship — they enjoy widespread popularity in both their country of origin and the United States. The term "huarache" itself translates to "sandal" in the Purépecha language.

Distinguished by intricate weave patterns that gracefully envelop the feet, these sandals provide a secure and well-ventilated fit. The weave patterns come in various designs, radiating a laid-back charm. They are especially suitable for the warmer spring and summer months.

Arguably one of the most intricate sandals to craft, huarache sandals embody an artisanal quality that enhances their intrinsic value. They effortlessly transition from casual occasions to formal settings and special events, demonstrating their remarkable versatility.

Specialised sandals

Also known as Orthopaedic sandals, these specialised shoes are an excellent choice for those looking to improve the alignment of their feet and overall body posture. They are especially helpful in helping to alleviate foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, and flat feet.

These sandals typically come with ergonomic footbeds or in-soles that provide extra cushioning and arch support. With raised soles that are designed to suit the natural shape of our feet, this helps in redistributing one’s body weight evenly across the heel, arch, and ball of the foot — and in so doing, reduces the overall pressure and strain on the legs and lower back.

The history of orthopaedic footwear began a millennia ago. As our ancestors travelled and walked across diverse terrains, they realised the need for comfort, stability and support for our feet, leading to the inception of modern-day orthotics. Today, with the advancement of technology, as well as the accessibility of materials, orthopaedic sandals now come in a wide array of designs and colours, There are even customisable and premium options that provide comfort and style in equal measure.

Blending style and practicality, sandals are a beloved fashion staple that will continue to be refreshed and reinvented season after season. Flat, platform, sport and slide sandals offer ease of wear and comfort, making them fabulous go-to choices for casualwear. More elaborate or polished designs, including heeled, gladiator and strappy sandals, will look perfectly at home in more formal settings, such as the office or a wedding. Encompassing an incredibly wide range of silhouettes and elements, the sandal category will always have something new and exciting to offer the creative fashion-lover who loves to express herself with her shoes.