More substantial than a pair of flip-flops but lighter-weight than sneakers, espadrilles are an ideal summer shoe. The term “espadrille” itself is, in fact, versatile: The only qualifying trait is that they must have a sole made of esparto rope, which is a fiber made from two kinds of perennial grasses originating from northern Africa and southern Europe. Once you’ve got the esparto rope sole, an espadrille can take the form of casual slip-ons, platforms, or wedges, and even slides that look a bit like Birkenstocks. To find out the best kinds of espadrilles for all styles and occasions, from padding around the beach to going out (even if “out” just means outside your apartment) we reached out to a panel of stylish women to hear their favorites.
Best flat and flatform espadrilles
When we asked ZOU XOU founder Katherine Theobalds about her preferred espadrilles, she emphasized first that it’s best to avoid mass-market pairs, if possible. “I used to work for an espadrille company and got sketched out by the manufacturing practices,” she says. “For that reason, I would recommend avoiding mass-market espadrilles in favor of artisanal makers like Casteñer and Manebi for classic silhouettes.” This elegant pair, which comes in cream or black, is Theobalds’s favorite pair from Casteñer.
Theobalds also loves this pair of espadrille ballet flats from Casteñer, which have a comfortable elastic strap and a crochet-effect upper area that will give your feet some breathing room on hot days. The Mary Jane style of the flats reminds us of some of our favorite pairs from Theobalds’s own shoe line.
From Manebi, Theobalds suggests this pair, which have a slip-resistant rubber base that will give you a little extra support. The style comes in a range of colors, from lilac to aquamarine, and patterns including leopard and zebra. Theobalds is partial to the mandarin-colored pair, and we like this neutral shade of light pink that’s currently on sale.
Model Dana Nozime is a fan of Manebi as well and suggests this almost Birkenstock-like style. “These are a different take on your typical sandals,” says Nozime. “They’re perfect for throwing on at the beach and feeling comfortable — they’re perfect to throw on to run errands or to wear comfortably around the house.” (Nozime says that if she were wearing them on the beach, she’d pair them with this zebra-print bikini, also from Manebi.)
If you want a slightly dressier pair of espadrilles with a little lift, Theobalds suggests this pair from Clergerie. The price is a bit higher than the other pairs on this list, but Theobalds makes a good case for the splurge: “I love designer espadrilles because they’re a great statement shoe and are more likely to be manufactured ethically, too,” she says. “Back in the day when I lived in NYC, I used to wear a flat, closed-toe, linen, crystal-embellished pair by by Brian Atwood — they really made a statement yet somehow went with everything I wore and were extremely comfortable. I wore them into the ground and still have them in my archive — that’s how good they were.” Theobalds says that right now, the pair of designer espadrilles that have captured her eye are these from Clergie, which she calls an “iconic pair.”
Best heeled espadrilles
Of course, if you really want some height, an espadrille wedge may be the way to go. When we asked around about heeled espadrilles, Casteñer came up again as a reliable (and chic) option. “The only espadrilles I’ve ever owned are from Castañer,” says Sarah LaFleur, CEO and founder of M.M.LaFleur. “When I spent a year in Paris working as a bike tour guide, every cute Parisian girl seemed to be wearing them. And because all I wanted to do was be Parisian, I splurged on a pair. (They’re not outrageously expensive, but I was living on two-euro lunches.)” Though LaFleur says that the height made her a bit worried about twisting her ankle, the timeless look made it worth the risk. The canvas also helps keep the shoes breathable even on hot summer days.