One Woman's Blistered Search for the Perfect Summer Sandal

Image: Elena Scotti

The 1999 film 10 Things I Hate About You was a seminal movie for me, particularly for Julia Stiles’s wardrobe, which seemed the platonic ideal of fashion at the tender age of 14. Stiles’s costuming seemed ripped directly from a non-existent, slightly high-end Delia’s catalog, all clothes that I wanted very badly but never could afford. Her shoes spoke to me: platform, foam flip flops, with a bamboo sole. I bought the shoes because of Stiles and wore them until the bamboo wore out. And now, like everything else of the late ’90s and early 2000s, they are back. Time has only strengthened my ardor. I love them now as I did then, and must have them for my own. So I bought a pair on a whim, wore them for a day, and feel mostly good about my choices. Though my feet are currently recovering from the first blister of the season, I have high hopes that the flip flops of my past will also be the flip flops of my present.

Unlike the big jeans and the items teens are finding at thrift stores, wedge flip flops have been slow to catch. Flip flops are not quite a city shoe, but I’ve made them my summer shoe of choice, second only to Birkenstocks. My feet are wide and flat and I must wear shoes that restrict their borders. I want to be comfortable but I also like a little lift. Aesthetically, the flip flop appeals to me, as they are the closest thing to being barefoot that I can get in the summer.

My boring go-to “uniform” of a Hanes men’s undershirt and jeans is, when paired with my beloved black Havianas, in my mind, something closer to the chic minimalism of Jennifer Aniston circa Brad Pitt, bopping out of a car idling outside of the Chateau Marmont, shielding her eyes from the lights of the paparazzi. Though I am often simply stepping out to the food store or maybe the park, and there are no paparazzi (that I know of) following me, I would like to feel some of that same joie de vivre. Flip flops are my way of automatically “dressing down” anything that I feel is too fancy. Unfortunately, I sometimes look like a bridesmaid with tired feet at a wedding, but that is my burden to bear for my own comfort.

Platform flip flops followed me around Taiwan in 2019, while I poked around little shops selling bedazzled wedge flip flops that were both practical and also, maybe, chic. Besides, my goal is to one day dress like a Taiwanese grandmother, with an eye towards comfort and a healthy attitude about prints; maybe platform flip flops are the first step. (My feet were too large for any of them, so I left empty-handed.) But that didn’t stop my search.

My daily perusal of Who What Wear’s inane listicles over the course of the year have slowly broken my brain to want things that I previously did not. It seems that that the platform flip flop trend was first noted on their site in December 2020, and then again in March of this year, and those two listicles were enough to awaken a demon within. Unfortunately for me, most of the offerings on either list are too expensive for my blood. This pair from the Row, which apparently started this whole trend in the first place, costs $790. These, from Staud, are $295 and look extremely heavy, but I love them more than words can say. My general rule is that if a shoe is going to cost over $100, I better be able to have the option to wear it year-round.

I’m chic
I’m chic
Photo: Megan Reynolds

As the restrictions around the pandemic have lifted and the weather improves, I feel great unhappiness with every item of clothing I own. It would be easier, but more expensive, to throw away everything and start fresh. As usual, I started with the shoes, spending two weeks looking for the right platform flip flops that would make me feel like an Olsen twin or a chicer, more elegant version of myself. These Rocket Dog clunkers sat in my cart for weeks, but I couldn’t pull the trigger—they weren’t the right vibe, slightly too blobby, and also, I feared breaking my ankle. I just discovered these Havianas, which I now realize are perfect, but they will have to rest easy for now. The pair I did purchase are from DSW and visually perfect to me: vaguely expensive-looking, big and tall, and sort of similar to the Staud pair I yearn for. They cost me $30 and one trip to Union Square, which was worth every penny. I love the way they look on my feet, as evidenced by this photograph, but walking more than one block in these bad boys is another story.

The reviews of the shoes on DSW’s website say that they are uncomfortable and heavy. Sadly, both things are true. The heaviness isn’t as much of an issue as the thick strap is, made of fake neoprene or some other nightmarish fabric that rubbed the top of my tender foot flesh raw. Stupidly, I slipped my feet into them about six blocks away from my apartment, to see if I could make these my summer shoe. Two blocks in the sun, walking down an empty sidewalk, with my mask slung around my chin like a diaper, I felt free. Three blocks later, the chafing began. By the time I made it to my apartment, I could tell that there was going to be trouble. The tops of my feet were abloom with blisters, in an arc across the top of my foot that matched that of the flatform’s straps.

I will wear regular flip-flops in the interim, until my foot flesh hardens into its summer carapace. By mid-June, the flatform flops will be ready for me.

Senior Writer, Jezebel

DISCUSSION

winglessvictory
WinglessVictory

Still looking for sandals I would marry. Birkenstocks give me a Flintstone foot vibe and they don’t fit my feet that well. Miz Mooz sandals seem to fit my narrower, buniony feet best, but I haven’t found THE ONE.