What are the Different Types of Sandals?

Model wearing the Women's Sidney Sandal in Warm Beige.

Ready for a fashion fact that will boggle your mind? Sandals have been around for literal millennia. That means that, unlike those moon shoes you briefly wore in middle school, sandals are never going out of style.

If the word “sandals” only calls to mind those flip flops you wear in gym showers, however, you’re about to enter a whole new world of fashionable footwear.

The different types of sandals are nearly endless, and their versatility can make them a flexible choice for any outfit. Before you can find the perfect pair for your next outing, we’ll dive into the neverending style power sandals have to offer, explain sandals vs flip flops, and go over our favorite ways to style each sandal type.

#1 Slide Sandals

Those flip flops we mentioned earlier might not be the snazziest style, but one reason they stay around in our shoe closets is because they’re so effortless to slip on. What if you could have all that ease and heaps of style at the same time? The slide sandal is the answer.

Slide sandals, sometimes referred to simply as “slides,” are a flat, open-back type of shoe with an exposed toe. The soles of slides can come in a variety of materials and thicknesses, but the main way they vary is in the upper (the strap that goes over your foot). These come in many options, from patterned and textured fabrics to smooth, glossy patent leather, making it easy to choose one that suits your liking. They’re a great summer sandal option, as a lot of slides are made with water-resistant materials, perfect for a day at the beach. Love the breezy feel of slides but want more coverage? Try a mule or check out our other women’s casual slip on shoe styles.

Style Ideas for Slide Sandals

Like many of the other sandals in this list, this comfortable sandal is easy to dress up or down. To make styling a cinch, try these options the next time you step into a pair of slides:

  • Slide sandals with jeans and a pleated or ruffled top
  • With a long, flowy maxi dress
  • With a mini skirt and an oversized t-shirt or top

#2 Strappy Sandals

If we were to hold a sandal talent show, strappy sandals would probably take home the prize for best walking sandals for women due to their overall comfort. While this sandal type offers several style variations of its own, one of our favorite options is the strappy flat sandal. Some of this style’s winning characteristics include:

  • Straps that criss-cross over the top of the foot
  • An adjustable strap that buckles at the side
  • Flat soles, often made of leather or faux leather

The straps of the sandals may also vary, from “barely there” straps as thin as threads, to bolder, chunkier straps, and everything in between. The thinner straps are what we see in popular, appropriately-named gladiator sandals, but some prefer the wider-strapped sandals for their comfort and shape, as we see with the fisherman sandal. Strappy sandals usually come with more arch support than their relatives, making them some of the best walking sandals on the market.

It’s worth noting that the strappy sandal’s range extends far beyond a flat. While some sandals’ thin soles keep you down-to-earth, a strappy sandal can also include a wedge heel, block heel, or even a chunky sole. The common features here are those sassy straps.

Style Ideas for Strappy Sandals

Flat strappy sandals lend themselves to a huge range of styling options. If you’re looking to style sandals to wear with dresses, try out a short, floral dress for a flirty, feminine style. Some of our favorite outfit ideas include :

  • With jeans and a cardigan for an in-between-seasons look
  • With a minimalist romper or jumpsuit as a chic but contemporary twist

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

#3 Platform Sandals

If all the world’s your stage, you’re going to love the platform these sandals give you to stand on—literally. Platform sandals can take many shapes, but the feature they all share is their chunky, extra-thick sole. Some also come with more spiky, sawtooth treads for extra traction and edgy appeal.

While you have many options when it comes to your uppers, platform sandals with an ankle adjustable strap are optimal for both comfort and style—two things you’ll want to prioritize along with that added height. Together, these features can lend them a sportier feel than other sandals.

Style Ideas for Platform Sandals

Though they may cater to all your dreams of Sporty Spice style, working a pair of platform sandals into your wardrobe takes some style savvy. Here’s a tip: you don’t have to reserve them for your athletic looks alone.

Try these ideas for platform sandal success:

  • For a city-chic fit, wear them with denim shorts and a button-up shirt
  • For a modern flair, try them with a classic sheath dress.
  • For a 90s throwback, pair them with a silky slip dress.

#4 Block Heel Sandals

This height-giving sandal transforms the spindly heel of a stiletto into a chunky square heel, but with no less height. Such shoe ingenuity might feel like a fresh take, but they’re actually quite retro. You can thank the fashionistas of the ‘70s for the block heel’s modern revival.

The straps and uppers of block heel sandals may take inspiration from many other styles, but they deserve their own mention because of their double gift of comfort and height. They’re also unbelievably adaptable in almost any situation—from treading through a grassy field for an outdoor wedding to hitting the dance floor for the fifth time that night. 

You might find block heels with a cork, wooden, or leather sole, and with cutout uppers, chunky straps, or in the style of slides. Whatever style you choose, these are definitely one of our most comfortable sandals for women.

Style Ideas for Block Heel Sandals

To make the most of this powerful sandal, try pairing them with outfits that bring just as much striking style. Here are some ensemble ideas to spark your creativity:

  • For a retro flair, pair them with wide-leg trousers and a bell-sleeved shirt.
  • For a minimalist appeal, dress them up with paper bag-style pants and a feminine short-sleeved blouse.
  • For a fashion-forward but work-ready look, try them with a matching blazer-trouser set in a pale pink, blue, or sage color.

Shop Women's Collection.

#5 Wedge Heel Sandals

Wedge heel sandals can give you just as much lift as a block heel, but they differ in that their soles come in the form of a wedge. No surprises there—however, the variety of wedge heel options is what makes them truly phenomenal. Many of them borrow features from other sandal types, such as:

  • A cutout upper
  • A strappy upper
  • An espadrille-style rope soleA slingback ankle strap
  • A peep-toe upper
  • A platform sole for added height

These variations might make choosing your favorite wedge sandal as challenging as choosing your favorite ice cream flavor. In better news, however, they also give you an infinite number of options for your outfits.

Style Ideas for Wedge Heel Sandals

Not sure how to make wedge heel sandals work for you? Try these options to start rocking your wedge sandals with confidence:

  • Pair cutout wedge sandals with a knee-length dress and blazer.
  • Combine strappy wedge sandals with a sundress and floppy hat.
  • Try espadrille-style wedge sandals with white ankle pants and a bright blouse.

#6 T-Strap Sandals

Though they got their start as a closed-toe shoe, the open-toed T-strap style has earned its place in sandal stardom. T-strap sandals, sometimes called T-bar sandals or thong sandals, get their name from the way the straps form a “T” across your foot. The tail of the “T” goes between your first and second toe, sometimes with a toe loop.

While this style might mimic the openness and ease of a strappy sandal, they come with a much cleaner, more simplistic style—making them the prime casual shoe for stress-free ensembles.

Style Ideas for T-Strap Sandals

To take advantage of these sandals’ carefree characteristics, try these relaxed outfit pairings:

  • With a shirt dress and belt
  • With an A-line skirt and sleeveless button-up
  • With a crop top and high-waisted shorts

#7 Cutout sandals

The cutout trend has been making the rounds in clothing, and it only makes sense to extend such a sharp and creative look to sandals. Cutout sandals’ primary appeal is in their more substantial uppers. Rather than straps, these uppers are often made of fabric or leather, but with cutouts that still leave them feeling light and breezy.

That combo makes cutout sandals an obvious choice for those wanting something with the texture and uniqueness of a boot, but the airy comfort of a sandal.

Cutout sandals are available as flats, wedge heels, and platforms, but block heels are undoubtedly a favorite among these style variants.

Style Ideas for Cutout Sandals

To play into the cutout sandal’s creative charisma, try these style options at your next outing:

  • For an airy style, wear them with an off-the-shoulder dress.
  • To play up the edgy side, try them with your favorite distressed denim and a leather jacket.
  • To elevate a contemporary outfit, pair them with a monotone shirt and trousers.

Find Your Sandal Style with TOMS

Discovering your favorite sandal is like meeting a new best friend. Things just feel right, and sooner or later, there’s no question you’ll go places together.

Just like there’s a place for every personality in your friend group, you don’t have to choose just one of the many types of sandals. With TOMS, you can step into style and comfort with every outfit, no matter what kind of women’s sandals you choose. As soon as you experience the bliss they bring to your soles and style, you’ll want one of every kind.

When you’re ready to begin your sandal adventure, find your perfect pair with TOMS.

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:LoveToKnow. History of Sandals. https://fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/fashion-accessories/history-sandals

Insider. What high heels looked like the year you were born. https://www.insider.com/heels-each-year-2018-8