Why Are They Called Sandals?

Sandals have beautified feet since pre-history, worn to adorn and complement a person’s status. They’re the antithesis of today’s plastic flip flops!

A sandal is an open type of footwear, with straps going over the instep and around the ankle. The distinction between sandals and other shoes is often blurred (like huaraches, woven Mexican footwear). Here are some examples.

Ancient Egyptians

In ancient Egypt, the earliest sandals were not only functional but carried a set of meanings. Like other garments shoes differentiated social classes and a particular pair was worn in specific ritual contexts such as when reciting the Book of the Dead.

Sandals were made from woven papyrus reed and palm fiber thongs. They were held next to the foot by plaited thongs that passed between the great and second toe and were wrapped around the ankles.

One of the earliest hieroglyphs depicting pharaonic images shows a sandal maker accompanying King Menes who united Upper and Lower Egypt in 3100 BCE. Nevertheless many Egyptians continued to go barefoot and sandals were more often worn by pharaohs, high officials and wealthy nobles. In fact a pair of sandals were found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun showing obvious alterations thought to have been made to accommodate the king’s foot deformities.


Ancient Greeks, like most other ancient cultures, went barefoot indoors and took their shoes off when entering temples or homes. The sandal was a common shoe of choice for men and women alike.

Sandals were so closely linked to the culture that sculptors made them an important part of many works. The goddess Aphrodite is often depicted wearing a pair of sandals.

General Alcibiades developed a snug military sandal with intricately laced leather that fully covered the foot. He called these caligae, and they protected soldiers on long marches into northern Europe. Julius Caesar was a young boy when he began to wear caligae and was nicknamed Caligula. The sandal became a popular symbol in art as well, with one-sandaled figures appearing frequently in myth and sepulchral artwork (Ledger, 1985). The style was also adopted by Romans.


As the Roman empire expanded the legions had to cover vast distances on foot. Their feet needed to be protected so they could fight effectively after long marches. This is why sandals were introduced. The Romans developed many different styles of sandals Simple way, shoes, and shoe boots. The generic name for the outdoor sandal was calcei; for closed shoes they were called caligae (Latin).

Shoes showed status as well as fashion in ancient times. The higher the heel, the more status you enjoyed.

The wealthy were able to have shoes made specially for them with a thong running between their toes. As time passed, however, the sandal slipped down the social ladder. Even the great Greek theologian, Titus Flavius Clemens (later Saint Clement) condemned them as a symbol of temptation and forbade women from wearing them.


Sandals are shoes that leave most of the foot exposed. They may have a flat sole or a heel. They can be worn with dressy clothes and also with casual outfits.

Sandal styles that are very casual include flip flops. They may have straps that go over the instep or around the ankle. Other sandals, like thong sandals and slide sandals, may have only one or two straps that connect across the top of the foot.

Other sandals can have a very high heel. They are sometimes referred to as high heel sandals and they can be worn with dresses or other casual attire. Some styles of sandals that are a bit more formal include clogs, wedge sandals and platform sandals. These are usually made of high quality materials and they look great with dressy pants and skirts.


The Victorian era (from 1837 to 1901) saw sandals gradually regain popularity in women’s shoe wardrobes. While the shoes were considered risqué at the time, advances in shoemaking allowed women to wear sandals that bared less of the foot and ankle.

Naked sandals (sometimes called floss sandals) have minimal straps that are skinny as straw, a trendy style that’s perfect for summer when you don’t want to cover your feet with a closed shoe or boot. Floss sandals also look cool in skin-tone colors.

Gladiator sandals were worn by actual Roman gladiators, and they’ve been around in some form or another ever since. They can be dressy or casual. They make a statement. They’re best paired with jeans.

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