Though your current state of footwear is likely a rotation of cozy socks, slippers, and sneakers for walks and other WFH-friendly activities, now is the time to start planning your warm-weather shoe lineup based on summer's biggest sandal trends. The minimalist sandal — yet another '90s look seeing a cyclical reboot — has proven to be a unanimous favorite in recent seasons and a frontrunner on the trend circuit for the year 2021.
The best part about this ultra-sleek trend is that it doesn't feel all that trendy. From flat, lace-up silhouettes to so-simple slides and low, multi-strap heels, minimalist sandal styles most often come in neutral colors like white, tan, and black save for the occasional pop of tangerine or lime green for maximum versatility. Such attributes lend themselves to endless styling possibilities for the warm months ahead; think diaphanous dresses, linen separates, tees and cut-offs, on-trend swimwear, this season's tailored Bermuda shorts, and, of course, jeans. Bring on the chic nonchalance!
With so many stylish iterations on the market from buzzy labels like Ancient Greek Sandals, Staud, By Far, ATP Atelier, and Cult Gaia to emerging and independent designers including Emme Parsons, Amanu, Studio Amelia, Tamara Mellon, and Cornetti, it can be challenging to choose the right minimalist sandal for you. What's more, wrapping your head around the fact that a super-slim sandal can be plenty supportive and comfortable when it's not made up of much might feel impossible. But trust, the brands laid out ahead have done the legwork in figuring out their way around a stylish and satisfactory minimal sandal. Keep scrolling for 10 labels with ultra-chic designs — plus their styling tips for your most stylish summer yet.
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The Best Minimalist Sandals: Emme Parsons
"The beauty of minimal sandals is that they virtually disappear on the foot and can be styled with almost anything," said LA-based shoe designer, Emme Parsons whose ethical designs are made with natural components like bio-based suede and are nearly 90 percent biodegradable. Parsons pairs her classic lace-up sandal, the Susan and slip-on style, the Folded Slide with everything from yoga leggings to midi dresses and jeans on a day-to-day basis and recommends strappier silhouettes like the String and the Tobias with suiting or knit and shirtdresses. "They are super versatile and can make the most casual outfit look pulled together," she said.
All of Parson's designs are made with lightly padded footbeds and soft and pliable Italian nappa laces and cords, making them prime for comfort. "The leather sole molds to your foot, which makes them more comfortable the more you wear them."
The Best Minimalist Sandals: Ancient Greek Sandals
Christina Martini, the creative director of Ancient Greek Sandals, tells TZR that a classic, minimal sandal can take you from the beach to the bar if you coordinate them with other pieces in your wardrobe. She likes to accessorize hers with a variety of anklet styles — from coral and turquoise versions to gold chains and styles with pearls or crystals. "For the daytime, I like to wear slides with denim shorts, a pair of light cotton shorts or trousers with a classic white T-shirt," she said. "I usually wear my lace-ups with a short dress or skirt... My favorite evening look is a fringed Jacquemus skirt with our strappy comfort soles, perfect for dancing."
As for the comfort level, Martini said that Ancient Greek Sandals are made with high-quality vegetable tan leather sourced from certified tanneries in Italy and use a traditional construction technique where the straps are inserted in the insole instead of around it. "The idea was to make a totally flat sandal which disappears under the foot. We didn't want a heel, but we knew that a bit of a lift at the back is necessary. So, we studied the construction and incorporated an inner piece at the heel."
The Best Minimalist Sandals: Amanu
"I adore the minimal sandal," says Anita Patrickson, a stylist and founder of the made-to-order sandal brand, Amanu. "It's so sexy and feminine, that 'barely there' summer feeling." Whether you're wearing a minimalist sandal for a beach day or to a party, Patrickson says the key to styling them is to achieve balance with every outfit. "I love our Amanu Style 10 paired with a floaty printed dress and some statement earrings. The delicate straps offset busy prints and bright colors. The Amanu Style 1 slides are the perfect beachy slide, they are so simple and can be paired with anything. I love mine with denim cut-offs and an oversized white button-up and a chic headband." Patrickson tells TZR that she likes to style this type of simple silhouette with a loose-fitting, all-black linen suit sans jewelry, completing the look with with clean and simple hair and makeup.
Since Amanu sandals are mostly made-to-order directly from the brand's Los Angeles store, save for a few core styles that are available for purchase online, every strap and padded footbed is custom fit. What's more, every style is made from by-product leather that's vegetable-dyed, which can be customized in-store based on what colors you like.
The Best Minimalist Sandals: ATP Atelier
For sleek Scandinavian design, ATP Atelier is a go-to for minimalist footwear that has everything from lace-up silhouettes to uniquely-shaped slides and multi-strap heels. "We wanted to create an urban sandal that transitions seamlessly from beach to city, that you don't want to get rid of when you get home from your vacation," co-founder and creative director, Maj-La Pizzelli tells TZR. "We love to see our sandals styled with a lightweight caftan on a cliff in Puglia just as well as with a plain jean and tee in a coffee shop in Brooklyn."
With fine Italian materials and craftsmanship is at the crux of the business, Pizzelli says that ATP Atelier sandals are about the material and fit first and design second. Most styles are made from vegetable-tanned vachetta — a raw, environmentally-friendly material that's void of chemical treatments — that forms comfortably to the foot over time. "Worn-in vacchetta is the most comfortable leather," Pizzelli says.
The Best Minimalist Sandals: Studio Amelia
Emily Amelia Inglis, the founder and creative director of the emerging shoe label Studio Amelia, tells TZR that she created her brand after struggling to find flat sandals that she could wear with tailored pieces and more elevated attire. "My favorite way to style my flats is with a beautifully cut suit or beneath a romantic maxi dress; it's just such a great contrast to even out the severity and opulence of your outfit." For more casual sandal outfits, the designer suggests pairing styles like her 2.2 Flip Flop with suiting and the 2.1 Classic Slingback Flat with an evening dress for a relaxed yet elevated take on the night-out style. As for those strappy, barely-there heels, Inglis says, "I love to offset their 'dressy' feel by combining with my vintage jeans and a gentleman's oversized classic white shirt."
The Best Minimalist Sandals: Cornetti
Claudia Aragon, the founder and designer of the handmade Italian shoe brand Cornetti, shares that her thought-through minimalist design sandals comfortably hold the foot in place at all the necessary points. "The straps [on several styles] can be adjusted to fit the unique width of any foot perfectly," she says, boasting their versatility for styling. "My summer wardrobe is mostly white linen ... little dresses, tunics, blouses, and shorts. I can wear almost any sandal that I have made with any white linen piece I own. It's like a uniform [that is] timeless and looks great with a tan."
The Best Minimalist Sandals: By Far
The buzzy Australia-designed and Bulgarian-made brand By Far is known for modern takes on nostalgic shoe styles from heels to flats, offering trendy minimal sandals like the popular Tanya, Magnolia, and Yumi styles as well as new silhouettes for 2020. "Slip-me-on sandals and leather slides are always fun to mix with capri pants for maximum impact with minimal fuss," says co-founder Valentina Ignatova. For a trendy summer look, she recommends a thong sandal like the Jack. She says a strappy style like the Christina in a soft pastel shade is fresh for summer and looks great with an oversized suit. "[It's] the coolest combo!"
Co-founder Sabina Gyosheva adds that comfort is a keyword during By Far's design process. "We are obsessed with minimalist sandals, but we would never trade comfort for style. I like to believe that the success of our Tanya mule is because it is infinitely wearable — the two straps are carefully positioned to support the foot where it is most needed. The block heel provides you with stability so you can walk in them."
"If you take a closer look, you will notice that most of our shoes' heels are positioned in a place where one's weight is distributed equally," co-founder Denitsa Bumbarova adds. "This achieves the perfect balance without fear of losing stability. And we only use soft premium Italian leathers so that all the straps are supporting without causing any discomfort."
The Best Minimalist Sandals: Staud
"Growing up in California, I feel quite versed in sandal culture," says Sarah Staudinger, co-founder and creative director of the It brand Staud. "I love a big dress with a minimal sandal. It's less predictable to wear a simple sandal with a dress than a pump or high heels. I think most outfits work with a simple sandal and that they make them look more refined and chic, be it a gown or a pair of jeans."
Since its 2019 debut, Staud's heeled Gita sandal has made its way onto the feet myriad fashion insiders and influencers, and for 2020, a flat version has debuted for a more relaxed style. "For spring, we paired it back to big organza dresses, wide-leg pants, and even our summer suiting. It's the only shoe I need this summer. The satin Gitane feels slightly more dressy and can work for every occasion. I love this shoe in pop colors, but the neutrals are a must for me."
Staud says that it's crucial to find minimalist sandals that you can feel comfortable in. "I will say from personal experience, no matter how minimal something is, if it's slightly off or hitting the wrong spot, it can be brutal walking around all day. I have massive feet and have learned that lesson the hard way. Our design team has collaborated in wear-testing and making sure each minimal strap is comfortable and adjustable."
The Best Minimalist Sandals: Cult Gaia
Cult Gaia has become synonymous with warm-weather dressing and vacation style; it's no surprise the brand offers a great minimalist sandal to pair with cut-out dresses, stylish sarongs, and woven handbags from their ready-to-wear collections. "The best part about minimal sandals is that they go with everything from dresses to jeans and a T-shirt to swimsuits," says founder, Jasmin Larian. "I'm wearing my sandals with our Margot dress and Chelsea dress from the Spring collection."
To ensure a quality fit and comfort, Larian says she wear tests every shoe she designs for two months before it's produced. "It's really important to me that we're providing a quality product that will last and is worth investing in."
The Best Minimalist Sandals: Tamara Mellon
If you're looking for a minimalist stiletto sandal that makes a statement, a toe-ring kitten heel, or uniquely-cut slide, look no further than Tamara Mellon. "Strappy, minimalist sandals are the new investment piece," says designer Tamara Mellon. "They don't overpower an outfit, can be tied in different ways, and are extremely versatile."
All handcrafted in Italy with soft leather lining, these minimal sandals are ultra-versatile and can be worn for special occasions, in the office, and, of course, on vacation. "I wear mine with everything from jeans to cocktail dresses. This style can cross over so many different categories and instantly make any outfit look modern."
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