Carefree barefoot strolls along the beach conjure up idyllic images: fine, golden sand between your toes, playfully kicking up splashes from gently lapping waves…
But let’s be realistic: sprinting over superheated sand to the safety of your sunbed, picking your way painfully over pebbles, or slipping on seaweed-slimy rocks are all holiday hazards we want to avoid – not to mention the thought of standing on sea urchins or stonefish.
Beach shoes need to be comfortable, waterproof, quick-drying and have good grip. To minimise suitcase space, they need to be stylish enough to take you from sand to sightseeing.
Practicality has resulted in popularity; nowadays you can even buy designer options, like Jimmy Choo's Margot rubber toe-post gladiators, which at £175, you probably wouldn’t want to risk being swept out to sea by a freak wave.
Top of the flip-flops
Easy to slip on and off, toe-post sandals, or flip-flops, have been popular since ancient Egyptian times.
Podiatrist Emma Supple says: ‘Flip-flops help the five layers of muscle in your feet to work in their natural way, and keep feet unconstricted. Fitflops, claimed to give you a workout as you walk, have a good, thick sole and are therefore have beneficial shock-absorbing qualities. Their beach flip-flops benefit from built-in arch support and pressure-reducing midsoles. Women’s Superjelly rubber Fitflops, in 19 colours, textures and patterns, look more like sandals with their triangular top piece, instead of twin straps (from £30). Men’s Surfer Fitflops have soft webbing straps in five plain and striped designs (from £35).
Fun flip-flops aren’t hard to find, but for feelgood fashion, try the patterned soles and pretty plain straps from Gandys, created by two brothers orphaned by the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. Of the £22 price (for both men’s and women’s), 10% goes to the brothers’ Orphans for Orphans charity initiative.
Spend over £35 in Marks & Spencer and get a free pair of brightly coloured men’s or women’s flip-flops (while stocks last, for a limited period).
Worryingly named, matt black, lined with fluorescent yellow, Speedo Mens Saturate II Thong have good grip for non-slip fun around the pool in classic style (£16).
But if basic budget flip-flops are what you want, try Beco’s, for just £2.49 (reduced from £2.99) in seven colours, and sizes 36-37 to 44-45, from Pro Swimwear.
Get a handle on the sandal
An American cult brand for women, Salt-Water Sandals have been made since the 1940s when Walter Hoy used up leather leftover from his military boot-making business. Originals have a rubber sole. The leather in this traditional strap-and-buckle open-toed sandal is coated with waterproof sealant, so wearing them in and out of the sea is no problem, indeed, you can even put them in the washing machine!
There are three main styles: Sharks, with a strap over the toe to the front; Classics, with a front buckled strap and Originals, with three inter-looping straps across the front of the foot. All come in a broad range of brights, pastels, metallic and ‘mash-up’ mixed-strap colourways. (From £55, online or see website for stockists.)
Created in 1984 from the fusion of Velcro watch straps and flip-flops, Teva have crossed from the great outdoors to just plain great in the past few years, fuelled by the growing popularity of ‘comfy’ shoes. Original Universals are the simplest, with polyester webbing heel straps, across-the-toe strap and the side-strap, and in umpteen colours and patterns, including plain geometric and ombré. (For men and women, from £35.)
Crocs may divide fashion opinion but there’s no arguing with their comfiness and lightness, and the fact that they’re worn by people who stand a lot. They come in countless styles apart from the classic clog-with-a-heel-strap (men’s and women’s, from £29.99), such as ‘flips’ (from £19.99), wedge mules (from £34.99), or ballet pumps (from £29.99).
Particularly pretty is the women’s Huarache: with a heel cup and multicoloured crisscrossing straps (£39.99 from John Lewis).
Created by a French fisherman during leather shortages in the late 1940s, Méduse (French for jellyfish) flat jelly shoes, are made of PVC, have a distinctive basketweave upper, and sturdy soles (£12, from Sun Jellies).
Shoes and sliders
A few stand-out styles…
White is a winner on holiday - these 1-inch wedge pumps in practical stretch mesh are perfect swimming shoes, just £10 from Peter Hahn.
Dotted with drainage holes to let water out, white Beco slip-on swim shoes look a little like golf trainers, and have a sturdy grey cleated sole for comfortable strolling. In sizes 36-45, £7, from Simply Swim.
Dune Ibiza sliders for men are minimalist in their appeal: plain bands with no white stripes and no dazzling logo. In bright or navy blue, £25, John Lewis.
Top-class: toe-posts and heel strap, embellished with gold bows, Floozie by Frost French, £25.
Lynnette Peck's top 5 of the best summer sandals