A recent Wall Street Journal article about trends that had run their course announced that my Rothy’s flats were now officially passé. The very shoes that had been my mainstay footwear throughout the pandemic. In fact, I had just ordered a second pair in beige for spring to supplement the black ones I’d worn all winter. Of course, this led me to ask: How could my favorite comfortable sandals for the summer possibly be outdated? Knitted from recycled plastic bottles, the San Francisco-based brand makes an environmentally conscious statement. And Meghan Markle loves them. Or at least she did in 2019.
As we emerge from months of COVID lockdown, some of us may need to step up our shoe game. So what is the perfect summer sandal circa 2021? According to The Zoe Report, comfort will still be key. Easy slip-ons are officially a summer 2021 trend. Of course, a good neutral sandal will always be a summertime staple. But to stand out from the crowd, perhaps invest in a flat in a floral or stripe print. Or go with bold colors. Green and yellow seem to be everywhere this season. The Zoe Report notes that the strappy sandal trend of recent years is still going strong, so expect to see plenty of pretty, feminine styles. Tie-up laces are especially trendy. Platforms are also re-emerging this season. But an equally chic – and comfortable – flatform sandal provides the same hint of height that pairs so perfectly with floaty summertime frocks.
While planning for an upcoming Colorado vacation, I recently purchased another pair of pretty basic shoes: classic Birkenstocks. The simple slides will be great for the trip. But should I toss them in the back of my closet once we return? Luckily, the fashion gurus say the answer is no. You don’t need to give up on your utilitarian sandals, but you can dress them up a bit. If you’re looking for pure pizzazz, Rekken’s Nanashoo slide features pearl-encrusted buckles.
They are made-to-order in a range of colors and patterns, including one of the season’s retro-cool fabrics: gingham. The British brand Grenson offers an edgier alternative to the earthy hippie look with its Willa sandal.
Available in either classic white or black calf leather, they will go with anything you might throw on this summer. For a whimsical take on the traditional two-band slide, try the “true romance” version of the Freedom Moses sandal.
Melissa’s jelly platform interpretation of the double-buckle slide in red or cream is another playful possibility.
Sporty sandal brands have capitalized on the athleisure trend in recent years and now offer a range of stylish options. You’ll be both comfortable and chic at the beach this summer in Teva’s Maressa sandal in birch or sunflower, or consider a pair of Leo red-print bandana sandals from Arizona Love.
Of course, comfort may not be your top priority; you may be all about style. If that’s the case, consider the statement slide or its close cousin, the statement mule, as a mainstay summer sandal for 2021. When it comes to traditional slides or mules, you can find a variety of designs in either the classic or trendy camp. For those who favor a polished look, Steve Madden’s basic black Mayra sandals will dress up any outfit.
If you’re intrigued by the clog trend but not ready to commit, try a minimalist slide version like Tory Burch’s Jessa clog sandal.
Of course, the right embellishments make even a simple slide look posh. For instance, pearl-studded flat slides by Stuart Weitzman are always an elegant option.
Or amp up the hardware. A big, bold chain adds a dose of glamor to Jeffrey Campbell’s versatile slides. Both the classic black and a trendy mint green look sensational.
We all know that summer means color and whimsy, and plenty of slides match that description. Expect to see lots of puffy quilting and braiding as well as feminine bows and knots. For instance, the Seychelles puffy woven sandal in red, blue, pink, yellow, or purple.
A number of brands specialize in fanciful styles with an uptown vibe, like the pleated knot mule by Emilia.
If florals are your thing, Johnny Was makes a pair of breezy poolside slides in a chic sunflower print.
And for something dressy but different, I’m a fan of Madewell’s wavy lizard slip-ons with chic color-block stripes.
According to Vogue, your choice for a lighter lift this summer should be dainty leather lace-ups. Strappy sandals dress up any summer look, and they’re a great way to show off a pedicure. Chic hardware touches enhance the season’s most elegant styles, whether the sandal is a flat or a platform heel.
When it comes to heels these days, I love a minimal block option that offers style without sacrificing comfort. I also love the angled toe trend, which is definitely a thing with some of the dressier sandals this summer. And, of course, sandals that tie a bit higher on the leg always add a playful dose of sex appeal. A number of brands offer affordable strappy sandal options in the classic neutral shades recommended by Vogue this season. For instance, both Vicenza and Raye have designed heeled sandals, in snakeskin or classic nude, that would convince me to give up my flats.
Both versions tie just above the ankle. Or, stay grounded with the sensational Starla sandal by Loeffler Randall.
Star-spangled gold-foil detailing on the ties pretty up these neutral flats. On the other hand, if you want a platform heel and don’t care for the lace-up look, check out Dolce Vita’s Paily braided double-strap sandals in brown or beige.
In addition to neutrals, black will complement most of your colorful summer clothes. If you’re shopping for a black flat, you can’t go wrong with Jeffrey Campbell’s simple but chic Shailene sandal, while Schutz offers an elegant kitten heel with gold chain-link trim.
You can draw attention to yourself this summer with strappy sandals in bold colors. However, you may not be ready to go all-in with one of the season’s hottest hues: yellow. But a sandal might be just the way to dip your toes in the water, so to speak. An inspired choice would be Tory Burch’s stunning ankle-wrapping take on the classic Capri in goldenrod. These chic sandals, embellished with jewelry-inspired hardware, will be your favs when you take that long-awaited tropical beach vacation.
Or take on the world in these wooden wedge gladiator sandals in, yes, sunny yellow.
For an edgier vibe, Jeffrey Cambell’s flatform Leontius sandal in summertime orange is a versatile option. You can dress the shoe up or down.
You’ll also find lace-ups in summery colors. For instance, Vicenza’s sly bandana-wrap heels come in orange, light red, or pale blue.
As history reminds us, the origins of the espadrille may be simple. Spanish peasants traditionally favored the woven-heeled footwear that has become a summertime staple. In fact, the name derives from the Catalan term for indigenous grass used to make ropes and weave baskets. However, most of today’s designs could hardly be called humble. Instead, they deploy color and detail to transform these unassuming sandals into something more highbrow. You will want to save room in your closet for a no-fuss espadrille, like this wedged sandal from Anthropologie.
If you’re looking for a more sophisticated take on the traditional espadrille, try the classic Castaner Carina 80 canvas platform in ivory.
For those who prefer flats, consider this classic style from Tory Burch – a flat waterproof espadrille in ivory or chocolate. These shoes will stand up to a downpour or a day at the pool.
But please, don’t limit your espadrilles to neutral canvas. Feel free to choose styles featuring riotous color and not-so-traditional materials. For example, the multicolored platform wedge from Tory Burch ranks among my all-time favorites.
As for unorthodox materials, how about suede espadrilles? The red suede Manty espadrille from Kurt Geiger London certainly works.
And the Loveshackfancy X Manebi espadrilles capitalize on multiple summer trends. The platform sandals feature both floral-print suede and a pretty ankle tie.
The color-blocked Ines flat sandal by Sophia Webster, made with metallic braided fabric, offers another creative twist on the woven shoe.
Or, if you prefer a traditional flat silhouette, check out Michael Kors’ interpretation. Called the Lenny, these espadrilles are covered in a multi-colored animal print, which, yes, is still trending.
Last summer was a bit of a bust, so treat yourself to some comfortable new summer sandals this year to brighten your wardrobe and make days on the beach or by the pool even better. The wide variety of styles and options this year are amazing, and there’s something for everyone on our list of the best for summer 2021.