What are Gladiator Sandals?

Mary McMahon

Gladiator sandals are t-strap sandals with several straps running across the front of the foot. These sandals were favored by Ancient Greeks and Romans, and when Greco-Roman trends pop up in fashion, gladiator sandals are usually not far behind. These sandals can be worn by both men and women, depending on the style, and several companies produce a range of these sandals in styles specifically suited to women. The most recent gladiator sandal craze was in 2008, when these shoes were declared “must-haves” in summer fashion.

Woman posing
Woman posing

T-strap sandals have a strap which runs around the ankle to secure the shoe, with a connecting strap which runs down the front of the foot. When viewed straight-on, a distinctive “T” can be seen at the top of the foot, where the two straps meet. In the case of these types of sandals, the strap which runs along the top of the foot connects to a series of straps which branch off to the sides, creating a webbing of straps on the front of the foot. Additional straps or laces may also be run around the ankle or even up the leg in some styles.

The original sandals were flats, designed to be extremely comfortable for casual walking, working, and fighting. The shoes would have stayed firmly attached to the foot while providing plenty of ventilation, and while not ideal for winter weather, they were quite suitable for spring, summer, and enclosed environments. Modern gladiator sandals sometimes branch far from their ancestors, with some women's designs featuring tall heels, thick wedges, and other design features which make the shoes a bit less practical.

These sandals come in a range of materials as well as styles. Leather, rattan, and plastic can all be used, in an assortment of colors from classic tan to metallic. It is also not uncommon to see embellishments such as embroidery, stamping, or beading on the sandals.

On women, these sandals look best when paired with a long leg and reasonably feminine fashions. Larger women sometimes have difficulty pulling this fashion off, especially if they have short legs, although there is certainly no reason for plus-sized women not to wear gladiator sandals. When paired with more masculine apparel, these sandals can tend to create a mannish appearance, which some women find unsuitable or undesirable. Men, on the other hand, are often advised to stay away from softer, more feminine fashions when wearing gladiator sandals, unless they are going for the femme look.

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Discussion Comments


The reappearance of designer gladiator sandals in fashion magazines proves just how cyclical fashion truly is. While I don't own a pair of gladiator sandals (too many straps), and I never will, I enjoy watching fashion trends come and go.

One of my favorite sandals from having lived in India is the water buffalo sandal which you first wear in water to get the sandal to mold to your foot. Incredibly comfortable and long lasting, their toe strap and foot band keep them from slipping around. I see them reappear but in leather, never water buffalo.

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