You know them, you love them and they are way older than you. No, we're not talking about your grandmother; we are talking about the lowly sandal. The sandal is one of the most prolific shoe designs found throughout the world, but how much do you actually know about it?
Different Cultures, One Need
Sandals were found throughout the ancient world and made with many different materials; however, they all had one thing in common. Sandals were all found in hot climates where there was a need to protect feet on the bottom but also a need to keep them cool on the top.
The Original Foot Cover
Sandals are the oldest form of footwear; there are even rock paintings of prehistoric men wearing their own form of the old foot thong.
Different Toes for Different Folks
Although evidence of sandals has been found in many civilizations, most civilizations used different toes for the thong. For example, the Greeks placed it between the first and second toes, the Romans used the second and third toes while the Mesopotamians used the third and forth toes.
Even today sandals come in many shapes and sizes. I personally wear a set of Keen Uneeks (as seen in the image above) and absolutely love them. Instead of going between my toes, they are more like an extremely well vented shoe. The design provides all the comfort of your standard sandals but offer the support similar to a shoe. Who knows where the evolution of the sandal will be in another 500 years.
The Oldest of its Kind
The oldest sandal still in existence was found in Fort Rock Cave, Oregon, USA. They were made from sagebrush bark and used during the summer by a local Native American tribe. Radiocarbon dating shows that these sandals were more than 10,000 years old.
What's in a Name?
While cultures from all around the world have their own names for sandals, the English term sandal comes from the ancient Greek word sandalon roughly meaning "wooden shoe".
It was World War II that helped make sandals popular in the west. Many soldiers who fought in Japan returned with Japanese zori sandals and they became a fascination for leisure shoe wearers.
High status footprints
Ancient Greek sandal makers carved designs or placed nails in the soles of their sandals in various patterns, so that the footprints of the wearer left a distinctive mark.
The oldest known set of hieroglyphics in the world details the story of a simple sandal maker who created the footwear for ancient Egypt's elite.
Sandals of Necessity
The Ho Chi Mihn-style sandal was favoured by Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War over boots due their durability (being made from tire rubber) and allowed the foot to dry quickly preventing trench foot in the tropical country.
More Was Needed
In the ancient civilizations of the Middle East the sand was so hot that the simple leather sandals weren't enough protection. They ended up having to put wooden short stilts on the bottom to elevate their feet.
In ancient Incan culture, a couple was not considered wed unless they exchanged sandals.
Fashion Faux Pas
While historically socks and sandals have been worn for thousands of years, today it is seen as a huge fashion don't. Many believe wearing socks with sandals contradicts the purpose for wearing sandals.
Funky Foot Health
Did you know your risk of developing foot fungus or athletes foot is reduced by more than 70% when you wear sandals rather than closed toe shoes?
The Flip-Flop's Close Cousin
Think flip-flops are hard to wear? Give India's oldest form of footwear, the Paduka, a try. There's no toe thong, merely a wooden knob to nestle between the first and second toe.
A study published in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association found that sandals actually alter the way the foot works, causing wearers to take smaller strides.
Mass Produced Pain
The first mass produced sandals were made in the 1950's in the United States. They were made out of such cheap rubber that they caused horrible blisters.
Where the Shoe Can't Go
A pair of sneakers may be out of place around the public pool, but sturdy pair of sandals is not only stylish, but they also protect the foot from warts and athlete's foot that may be lurking on the surface.
The most expensive pair of sandals are made by Chipkos and cost a stunning $18,000. They host hand painted art by renowned Los Angeles contemporary artist David Palmer, an 18 carat gold Chipkos emblem and mahogany wood bottoms.
Sandals in Space
NASA developed a unique pair of sandals called Force Shoe to help study the effectiveness of exercise in astronauts while in space through the use of 3D modelling technology. They were worn by three astronauts during their 167 stay on the International Space Station with the data now being used to improve exercise regiments.
Mend Manky Feet
Have a problem with smelly feet? It's not the sweat from feet that is responsible; it's the bacteria that grows in the damp sock and close-toed shoe environment. Sandals kept dry and airy will never smell.
For Real Beach Bums
Sandals have become so advanced that there are even pairs of metal-detecting sandals out there for multitasking at the beach.
Similar, Yet Different
While often thought the same, sandals and flip flops are two different types of footwear. All flip flops are sandals, but not all sandals are flip flops.
A Billion Dollar Industry
Although it fluctuates from year to year, sandals are around a $20 billion dollar per year industry, much higher than boots or sneakers. This is contributed mostly to flip-flops that are made cheaply, easily lost and only last around a year.
Big Sandals to Fill
The biggest sandal in the world is a size 879, worn by the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
You Get What You Pay For
Prolonged use of low quality sandals can lead to all sorts of health problems for the foot. Sandals should have a snug fit, shock absorbing material and should bend slightly without folding over completely.
There's unique... And then there's "UNEEK unique." It's a little bit of "I'll try anything" and a whole 'lotta "how you doing?" It's an open air footwear movement. So go ahead, step outta your comfort zone... comfortably.