As winter turns to spring and spring turns to summer, it’s time to rethink your wardrobe. While many shoes can certainly be worn year-round—such as slip-on sneakers, ballet flats, and oxfords—some styles exude a clear summertime vibe.
The top warm-weather shoes that come to mind are espadrilles. You’ve definitely seen them on other people’s feet, and you might even already own a pair of these tried-and-true shoes. Classic espadrilles are some of the most comfortable heels for wide feet or anyone looking for a pair of supportive, comfortable sandals. But what are espadrilles shoes, exactly?
At Vionic, we’re dedicated to offering premium footwear with high-quality materials and expertly engineered soles. This includes a substantial collection of women’s espadrilles with orthotic cushioning and elevated comfort. Keep reading for a detailed breakdown of the shoes, including the espadrilles origin history, evolution, style variations, and what to expect from modern and authentic espadrilles.
What Are Espadrilles Shoes?
So, what are espadrilles, and and their espadrilles origin? The primary feature of espadrilles, which are sometimes called alpargatas, is an esparto rope or braided jute fibre sole. Esparto is a fibrous grass used to weave cords, baskets, and in this case, shoes. Similarly, jute is a vegetable fiber often used to make rope, twine, and mats.
Beneath the ropes, the soles of traditional espadrille shoes are most often made of vulcanized (chemically hardened) rubber or crepe rubber. In some instances, they’re made of heavy foam. Normally, the soles are either the hue of the natural woven fiber or dyed white. Espadrilles typically have canvas fabric uppers, but you can also find them in leather, suede, and faux leather in virtually any color.
Many espadrilles feature classic braiding or twisted ropes on the soles, but others have more intricate designs. In most cases, the esparto rope or braided jute is glued onto the iconic sole and then stitched to reinforce it. The process of weaving, braiding, gluing, and stitching can be laborious, as most of it is usually done by hand.
Types of Espadrilles
Authentic espadrilles are available in sandal form, as well as closed-toe styles, including flats, mules, slip-ons, and sling-backs. If you’re looking for a little more elevation, espadrilles wedges and platform sandals are some of the most popular options. Both feature soles that gradually rise in height from toe to heel, but with platforms, the toe is slightly higher. Platforms and wedge heels are at the top of the list for the most comfortable types of heels. With a natural arch and solid support throughout the entire rope sole, this wedge heel is not only elegant but also practical, making the perfect summer sandals.
As an easy, breezy, summer-ready style, espadrilles are generally considered to be a casual shoe. However, they can definitely be dressed up a little when paired with a dress, skirt, or jumpsuit. As one of the more popular types of sandals, where did this style originate?
History of Espadrilles
Having been around for centuries, espadrilles shoes are by no means a new style. The roots of the rope-soled footwear date back to 14th-century southern France and Spain. Espadrilles get their name from the Catalan term, espardenya (or esparteña in Spanish). It’s unclear if espadrilles were named after Espartinas, a city in Spain, esparto grass, or espardenya, which is a type of seafood native to Ibiza. However, the seafood does bear a slight resemblance to jute ropes.
The first iterations of the shoes aren’t entirely different from some styles you’d see today: flat-soled slip-ons with jute wrapping around the ankle to hold them in place. Historically, espadrilles have been worn by women and men, but for at least a century, they were considered to be explicitly peasant footwear. Later on, laborers began wearing espadrilles, after which they became more popular throughout the Mediterranean region.
Espadrilles shoes didn’t really catch on in the United States until the 1940s. In the 1948 film Key Largo, the lead wore a pair of traditional espadrilles with ankle straps. In the 70s, French designer Yves Saint Laurent launched the first wedge espadrilles shoes, which quickly became a hit in the world of fashion. Back in the U.S., the braided jute shoes were popularized again in the 80s after Don Johnson’s Miami Vice character donned a pair.
Today’s espadrilles are still a very popular shoe style in Europe, the U.S., and throughout the rest of the world. They’re offered by many footwear companies, especially in the spring and summer, as well as places with year-round hot climates.
Most espadrilles you see on the market today are comfortable shoes for women. But there are some men’s styles, too—usually simple, flat-soled slip-ons. As a warm-weather fashion staple, espadrilles are often worn with everyday summer clothes. Think garden parties, barbeques, shopping, outdoor concerts, and farmer’s markets. Because of their boho look, dressed-up espadrilles make the best beach wedding sandals on brides, bridesmaids, and wedding guests. They’re a top footwear pick for travel shoes, too. We’re talking cruise ships, island getaways, on the beach, or at the pool.
Espadrilles can be rocked day or night with a variety of summer dress outfits. Tie in the natural fiber with a straw hat, rattan bag, or braided jewelry. The style is relaxed yet chic and always comfortable. When considering springtime or casual summer shoes, espadrilles are really a no-brainer.
Espadrilles are unlike most types of footwear. Since they’re made from natural materials, caring for them is a little different than other shoes. Here’s what you should know about maintaining espadrilles.
Some canvas shoes can be washed in a washing machine, but we don’t recommend doing this with canvas espadrilles. While the canvas might hold up OK, the soles will almost certainly become damaged. So, what can you do to clean your espadrilles? If they get dirty, use a damp, slightly soap cloth to gently wipe them down, being careful not to fray the jute.
Espadrilles shouldn’t be submerged in water. But when you’re out and about, your shoes could get splashed by pool water, ocean tides, or even unexpected summer rainfall. Since espadrilles usually have a rubber sole underneath the jute, you don’t need to worry about them falling apart. Just insert a rolled-up t-shirt or hand towel into the shoes to prevent the uppers from shrinking, and let them air dry.
Espadrilles and Orthotic Sandals from Vionic
At Vionic, we believe a pair of espadrilles have a place in every woman’s wardrobe. In fact, why not opt for a few pairs in varying styles? Whether you’ve got a tropical vacation, a music festival, a casual summer date night, or a wedding coming up on your calendar, espadrilles are your go-to shoe this season. They’re the perfect stylish addition to any outfit, and you don’t need to worry about foot pain or discomfort.
Vionic’s classic espadrille shoes for women come in several beautiful styles, each with either leather, suede, or canvas uppers. Some have simple, versatile designs, and others feature delicate detailing for a charming touch. We carry flat-soled espadrilles in sandals and closed-toe designs, as well as wedges and platforms for those who want more height.
We also offer what we call traditional espadrille-like wedges with basketweave-inspired soles. For a more casual look, Vionic has lace-up sneakers and slip-ons with classic espadrille-infused detailing around the edges. When you browse our collection, we’re confident you’ll find a pair that complements your personal vibe!
Comfort and Style Redefined
Both our wedges and flat espadrilles are designed to help you make a statement while avoiding pain and discomfort in your feet. Our trendy styles have built-in arch support and plenty of wiggle room for your toes to prevent foot-related conditions and deformities. As footwear innovators with a passion for comfort, our shoes are all manufactured with exclusive Vio-Motion Support technology. With Vionic’s stylish espadrilles, you can rock the timeless braided-sole look and stay comfortable all day with cutting-edge (completely concealed) orthotic soles.