Sandals are simple footwear composed of a sole that is held onto the foot by straps. Though the ancient Greeks did not invent the style, they did create many types of leather sandals, developing shoemaking into a skilled art and introducing a wide variety of footwear styles for all classes of men and women. By 500 B.C.E. the average Greek citizen could tell much about the people that passed in the street by the style of sandals they wore.

Early Greek sandals were made from a stiff leather or wooden sole to which leather straps were attached. These straps usually went between the wearer's big toe and second toe and around the back of the ankle to hold the sole firmly to the bottom of the foot. Much of the individual design of these sandals was created by the different ways the leather straps wrapped around the foot and ankle. Wealthy people wore soft leather sandals, sometimes dyed in various colors. The very wealthy sometimes even had gilded sandals, or sandals painted gold, in which the leather was covered with real gold. Some high officials and stage actors wore sandals called buskins, with tall soles made of cork, which made them appear taller. Some shoemakers 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. One pair of ancient Greek sandals has been found that left the words "Follow me," written in every footprint, and many experts believe that the shoes must have belonged to a prostitute. Workers wore heavy-duty sandals, such as the thick leather crepida, which were made with an extra-large sole and wrapped around to protect the sides of the foot, then laced up the top.

Greek men wearing different types of sandals. Sandals were worn to protect the feet against the elements as well as for style and to pronounce social status. Reproduced by permission of © .

Shoemakers became respected citizens in the Greece of the fourth and fifth centuries B.C.E. , and their craft was believed to be watched over by the god Apollo—god of the sun, music, poetry, and healing, among others. Sandals themselves were sometimes given magical powers in the myths of the time. Though the gods and goddesses were often pictured barefoot, Hermes and Iris, the messengers of the gods, were always pictured in winged sandals, and goddesses such as Hera, the queen of the gods, and Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, were often depicted in golden sandals.


Kippen, Cameron. "The History of Footwear: Sandals." Curtin University of Technology Department of Podiatry. (accessed on July 11, 2003).

Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2002.

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