What Are Espadrilles?

Cropped feet view of model wearing the Women's Diana Wedge Sandal.

Are you a shoe fanatic? Do you love having something different to wear with each of your favorite outfits? Or are you more of a function-over-fashion person who doesn’t want to have to put too much thought into what you put on your feet each morning?

Whichever category you fall into, we have the perfect shoes for you—espadrilles.

What are espadrilles? These comfortable, multi-purpose shoes traditionally featured a rope or woven fiber sole. Today, however, you can find espadrilles in countless styles, materials, and fits. If you decide to purchase a pair, knowing how to clean espadrilles is also equally important. This guide will break down everything you need to know about espadrilles for women.

The History of the Espadrille

The traditional espadrille has been a popular footwear choice for centuries. The first mention of espadrilles in writing dates back to 1322 from the Catalonia region of Spain. Most of the recorded history of these functional and comfortable shoes connects them to peasants. The materials used to make espadrilles were less expensive than the silk and leather reserved for the footwear of the wealthier classes. These materials included:

  • Soles made from esparto rope, a type of rope made from esparto grass
  • Canvas or cotton upper material

Unfortunately, the original forms of espadrilles weren’t long-lasting and had to be replaced or repaired frequently.

Cropped feet view of model wearing Women's Espadrilles.

How Did Espadrilles Become Popular Around the World?

The popularity of espadrilles spread beyond Spain’s borders as many people fled the country during the Franco regime in the 1930s. The style became popular in places where Spanish expatriates settled around the globe.

Since then, espadrilles have changed and evolved to include new styles and materials that retain the comfort and fashionable appeal of the originals.

Wait, Is it Espadrille or Alpargata?

If you’re familiar with the world of shoes, you may have heard the term alpargatas used when someone refers to shoes that look like espadrilles. That’s because they’re the same shoe, just described in a different language. The term espadrille is the French word for these shoes. Alpargata is the Spanish word.

So, there isn’t a question of alpargatas vs espadrilles when you’re picking which shoes to wear. They’re the same, whatever you choose to call them.

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What Are Espadrilles Made Out Of?

While a classic espadrille is usually made out of rope and canvas, modern espadrilles and designer espadrilles have expanded to include a wider variety of materials. Let’s examine the options you might see for espadrille soles and uppers.

Espadrille Soles

Today’s best espadrilles typically use one of three materials for the soles:

  • Rope – Most espadrilles today do not have a full rope sole like the pairs of the past. Instead, rope is used as a style element. It’s often glued over a base made out of plastic, wood, or another material. This helps them last longer since you’re not walking on and tearing the rope. See the Willow tan platform heel for a standout rope wrapped sole.
  • Jute – Jute is also known as burlap. It’s a plant-based fiber that’s considered sustainable because it’s biodegradable and produced with a lower carbon footprint than other materials. Jute fabric is capable of great durability and strength which has made it a popular choice for shoe manufacturers who make espadrilles as it offers a traditional look with modern benefits.
  • Rubber – An espadrilles shoe is also frequently made with a rubber sole. These sneakers combine the fashionable look of traditional espadrilles with the comfort and support of rubber-soled shoes.

Espadrille Uppers

The modern espadrille has seemingly endless options when it comes to the upper material. Some of our favorites include:

  • Canvas – Some of the oldest espadrilles featured a canvas upper, and the material is still used today. It’s made from durable and sturdy cotton fibers that are tightly woven together. Furthermore, canvas espadrilles can be treated with waterproofing agents. This can help keep your feet dry and comfortable, even on rainy days.
  • Felt – Some espadrilles are made with felt uppers. The matting process that creates felt gives you a thick, cozy material and also gives you a stylish espadrille. Add in a fuzzy lining and you’ll feel like you’re wearing slippers all day. This allows you to wear them even when the temperatures dip below freezing. 
  • Fleece – Another material used to keep toes toasty in espadrilles is fleece. If you want super soft and comfy shoes, then a fleece espadrille will meet your needs. 
  • Sweater knit – The creative materials used for espadrilles also include the sweater-knit look. If you want to add a touch of pizazz to your footwear collection, a pair of sweater knit espadrilles provides a truly unique option.
  • Recycled cotton – For a more lightweight option, recycled cotton espadrilles are a good choice. The cotton fabric uppers will feel comfortable against your feet without causing you to overheat in warmer temps.

Cropped feet view of model wearing the Women's Monica Mule Wedge Heel espadrille.

Upper Patterns and Colors

As you can imagine, with so many different choices for upper materials, the colors and patterns you can buy espadrilles in are pretty much limitless. Some of our favorite trends include:

  • Classic solid colors
  • Vibrant floral prints
  • Stark color blocks
  • Whimsical animal prints
  • Rustic plaid
  • Sparkly glitter
  • Stripes and polka dots
  • Hearts

When it comes to espadrilles, there’s a pair to please just about every palette and to match every outfit in your closet.

Who Should Wear Espadrilles?

Espadrilles are incredibly versatile and flexible. Originally peasant footwear, they can be worn by almost anyone seeking a pair of comfortable, casual shoes. You can buy espadrilles for children and adults. If you’re setting up a photo shoot, you can even match the entire family’s footwear style by putting the whole crew in espadrilles.

When Should You Wear Espadrilles?

Espadrilles are typically worn in the spring and summer because they don’t cover the top of the foot and ankle. Outdoor winter wear isn’t ideal since your feet will get cold and wet if you step into deep snow. That being said, some of today’s espadrilles feature some cozy materials, making them a good indoor shoe even when it’s icy outside.

In spring and summer, or in areas where the weather is fairly moderate year-round, the possibilities are extensive. Espadrilles are a stylish choice for:

  • Summer barbeques
  • Outdoor concerts
  • Garden parties
  • Traveling
  • Errands
  • Farmer’s market explorations
  • Apple picking
  • Dog walks
  • Hanging out with pals

They’re the perfect choice for an all-purpose casual shoe that you can wear for many of your nice-weather activities.

Which Espadrille Styles Are Trendy Today?

Espadrilles have remained popular because of their comfort and flexibility. These same features are notable in today’s trendy style. The top three types of espadrilles you’ll see on the feet of your friends and family members are:

  • Flats
  • Wedges
  • Sneakers

Let’s look more closely at each of these styles.

Flats

Espadrille flats are your go-to for casual nights out, especially concerts in the park or wine nights with friends. Flats can range from very casual with canvas uppers to more dressy with glitter-bombed tops. You’ll typically find flats that have the following types of soles:

  • Thin, sturdy rubber 
  • Wrapped rope outer with rubber base

Among the many benefits of flat espadrilles are:

  • They have a comfortable insole
  • They’re easy to pull on and off 
  • You can find them in many colors and patterns
  • Your feet will stay cool in warm weather 

Wedges

Although espadrilles are typically a more casual footwear choice, that doesn’t mean you can’t pair them with that cute summer dress you’ve been dying to wear. This is where wedges and platform shoes come in handy. Wedge espadrilles come in a few different styles, including:

Each of these styles will elevate your look (literally and figuratively). You’ll love the wrapped rope wedges and the comfortable outsole that won’t make your feet ache the same way traditional high heels would.

Sneakers

Lastly, espadrille sneakers are hugely popular today. There are several reasons people love wearing these shoes, including:

  • The thick rubber outsole is very comfortable
  • They have an elastic gore which makes it a breeze to pull them on and off
  • Padding around the foot helps keep them from chafing
  • They’re durable 
  • You can wear them with shorts, jeans, or athletic clothing

Espadrille sneakers are ideal when you want to wear shoes that offer the comfort of a typical sneaker but not the look of a typical sneaker. You can wear these versatile shoes for:

  • Summer barbeques
  • Walking around a zoo or museum
  • Warm evenings out with your friends
  • Spectating baseball and softball games
  • Casual strolls in the park
  • Shopping for groceries

Once you own a pair of espadrille sneakers, you’ll wonder how you ever went without these amazingly comfortable shoes before. They’ll be your new favorite pair after one wear and will spark many ideas for espadrilles outfits.

TOMS: Your Leading Source for Espadrilles (or Alpargatas)

Espadrilles have been worn for centuries. Today’s options take a step away from the traditional rope soles and offer a variety of comfortable and eco-friendly materials. The extremely wide range of fabrics you can find the uppers in means you’re never without the perfect pair to match your favorite look.

If you’re looking for a new pair of espadrilles to add to your spring or summer shoe selection, TOMS has you covered. We have a variety of espadrilles to choose from with options for the whole family. Browse our selection of womens shoes today—we’re sure you’ll find something you love.

Reviewed By Andrew David Stewart

Andrew David Stewart is the Manager of Digital Marketing at TOMS and has been working in the digital marketing and social media world for 6 years. Andrew is a lover of nature and the outdoors, and is passionate about telling stories through digital media.

Sources: 

Esquire. The Revolutionary History of Espadrilles. https://www.esquire.com/style/mens-fashion/news/a57038/espadrilles-history-revolution-basque-stylish/

Treehugger. What is Jute: Use and Impact of this Sustainable Fabric. https://www.treehugger.com/what-is-jute-sustainable-fabric-5202947

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