What Shoes Do You Wear on the Beach?

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Heading to the beach is at least an annual ritual for many of us, and for those lucky enough to live close to one, it’s more likely to be a regular weekend stop instead of just an occasional treat.

As people begin to plan their beach excursions a number of basic issues crop up. One of them might be “what shoes do you wear on the beach?” And that is actually a question that is harder to answer appropriately than you might think. Are you male or female? Are you planning to spend your time lounging on the sand topping up your tan? or are you up for something a little more active, like beach running or volleyball? Or are you more likely to be found at a quaint little beach bar someplace sipping the latest in summertime cocktails?

The fact is that what you plan to do at the beach will influence your choice of suitable footwear a great deal. And it may even call for a second pair of shoes tucked into a beach bag to change into at some point. So, in order to answer this question properly, let’s take a look at some of the most popular choices available to you:

Flip Flops

Flip flops have been the go-to choice for beach footwear for decades, and for good reason. They are very open, making them both cool to wear and easy to get on and off. Most of them are designed to be able to stand up to splashing at the edge of waves and – unless they are the newer, fancier kind of flip flops, ones crafted with lots of decorations and embellishments – it’s easy to quickly rinse the sand off them at the end of the day.

Flip flops are also the perfect compliment for that great swimwear you have lined up for the summer. Other types of beach shoe tend to make you look a little overdressed if you are simply sunbathing, and their simplicity takes nothing away from the rest of you!

There are some beach activities that wearing flip flops is not appropriate for though. Plan to be running – playing volleyball for example? Then flip flops are a bad idea, as they ‘flop’ off (pardon the pun) too easily and you could get hurt far too easily. And if you plan on heading to a beach bar afterward unless it’s a very casual one, you may find yourself a little underdressed.

When shopping for flip flops, it is important that you make sure they fit well. Ideally, you should be able to see about a half-inch of the sole all-around your foot. This will make sure that they are not so loose that they fall off too easily but not so tight that they pinch or rub.

Flat Sandals and Thong Flats

If you prefer a dressier beach look – whether you are male or female – or will be heading straight to a more formal location after you time on the sand – a bar, cafe or shopping perhaps – then a good pair of flat sandals or thong flats may be a better choice than a pair of plain flip flops.

Opting for flat sandals opens up a huge number of aesthetic possibilities to you. From thin, delicate straps that cradle the ankle and can be decorated in any number of ways to the striking look of the more robust gladiator sandal – we love the to the knee look in those, especially when paired with a great pair of shorts or a sporty skirt – you’ll find something to suit almost every taste.

Flat sandals also offer the advantage over flip flops that their straps hold them in place more securely, making it less likely that you’ll trip while strolling in the sand. However, that sand can be a bit bothersome to some if it gets into your sandals, as it will have nowhere to go until you take them off, one of the reasons some people prefer the more open, easy to wear option of thong flats.

Thong flats usually have thong between the toes to keep everything in place, are more formal than a flip flop and many women’s options have a dainty wrap around ankle strap too, making them perfect for pairing with a flirty beach sarong or flirty summer dress, as they can add just the right amount of formal aesthetic charm these types of outfits really deserve.

When choosing flat sandals or thong flats to wear on the beach do keep in mind that the beach is often a damp place, and that very delicate materials – like suede – just may not be up to the sea air in such close proximity. Leather, TPU, PVC or even rubber are all good choices though, although leather should not be allowed to get too wet or it may shrink and/or stain.

Beach Wedge Sandals

Standard high heels are, for fairly obvious reasons in no way suitable for wear on the beach. Beach wedge sandals are something of a different matter though. Because of a wedge heel’s wider profile, they don’t sink into the sand as easily as a thinner heel and they do make walking a little easier. Up to a certain height that is, anything over three inches may be harder to walk in under any circumstances!

Beach wedge sandals are very flattering for wear with swimwear if you are passively sunbathing – or lounging at the pool – especially as the higher heel serves to visually elongate the legs. They are less practical for actually walking on the beach though as they do still have a tendency to sink into the sand more than flatter beach shoe styles, something that will not only slow you down but possibly trip you up as well.

Beach wedges can be found in a number of different styles. In recent years wedge flip flops have grown in popularity, and as many of them are very affordable they are a very popular choice with vacationers looking for a cute pair of beach shoes for less.

The espadrille beach wedge is another popular, and very classic choice. It’s a great style for pairing with floaty summer dresses for a rather romantic look or with capris or clam diggers for an elegant but casual look.

Ballerina Flats

Although it is customary for most beach footwear to be open-toed there are some places you might head during a day at the beach that frowns on such things, especially some stores and higher-end restaurants. The thought of having to carry another pair of shoes – possibly heavy shoes – to change into should this scenario arise is a very inconvenient one to day the least. That is where a great pair of lightweight ballerina flats comes in.

Not only are these shoes lightweight and very flattering when paired with almost any outfit you can actually purchase ballerina flats that are so lightweight they fold, making them easy to slip into your beach bag or purse so that they are available whenever you need them.


Moccasins for the beach? As long as they are beach moccasins then yes, this type of summer footwear can be a great choice. Very soft fabrics are not really suited to beachwear, but leather styles usually stand up to the elements well and there are an increasing number of these options available on the market for both men and women.

The number of different styles available is impressive as well. Over on Etsy, we have seen some beautiful, highly decorated, even beaded beach moccasin sandals for ladies that would add a casually glamorous boho vibe to all kinds of summer outfits, from a bikini to jeans and a t-shirt and everything in between.

For guys, the driving moccasin in leather is a stylish, durable choice of beach footwear that is a little more dressy than a flip flop or a thong sandal and would be a marvelous choice for an evening at the beach bar or for a dinner date at a seaside restaurant.


At first it might seem like sneakers on the beach would be a little hot and heavy, not to mention potentially damaging to expensive sneakers (both sea and sand can stain permanently) However, there is a lot of active fun to be had on the beach, and most beach footwear types we have covered this far just really are not up to the job, especially when it comes to ease of movement and stability.

The good news is, however, that there are now a number of sneaker options available for men and women that are perfect for active wear in a beach setting. Some can even head into the ocean and come out unscathed and unharmed.

If you are shopping online for beach sneakers you will often find that they are also called water shoes or aqua sneakers instead. Many of them are actually perforated, so that the foot remains cool and, if they are worn in water the water can escape, rather than pooling up inside the shoe and weighing you down.

One of the big advantages of these beach sneakers is that they have the grip, comfort and even, in some cases, the various technical enhancements that other types of sneaker can boast. This can be especially useful if you like the idea of walking, jogging or running on the beach, all of which are great pastimes and a great way to burn of some of those extra calories many of us tend to consume when we are away from home on vacation.

General Beach Footwear Tips

Now that we have covered some of the most popular choices in beach footwear – and you are hopefully beginning to get some great ideas about which of them to choose to purchase and pack we thought we’d finish by offering some general beach footwear tips to help you make better buying decisions:


Whatever style of beach footwear you opt for getting the right fit is a must. There is nothing worse than hoping to have a great day at the beach only to have it ruined by foot pain from unsupportive shoes, or by the pain from blisters caused by ill-fitting shoes or too tight or too rigid sandal straps.

If you are shopping beach shoe shopping online, and can’t try the shoes on before you buy ensure that the seller offers a flexible return policy so that you can easily replace the shoes if they turn out to fit properly when they arrive. You may also want to take a few minutes reading customer reviews – if available – as often previous purchasers will mention if a certain shoes runs small or narrow etc, and these can stop you from making a mistake before you buy.


By definition beach footwear tends to be lighter footwear, but that does not mean it should be flimsy or break within the first few wears. If you don’t want to spend hours of your vacation time hunting through the local stores – which can be unusually expensive, especially at popular resorts – for a pair of beach shoes to replace some that unexpectedly broke then it may be worth spending a little more to get footwear that is of a higher quality and offers the durability you need.

Ease of Cleaning

The wet, sandy beach can be a messy place, and so whatever beach shoes you do opt for try to make sure that they are as easy to clean, and to care for, as possible. Many people forget that sand is actually made up of fine particles of seashells and rocks, so can scratch leather or plastic uppers, If you are going to wear these kinds of shoes to the beach adding a leather treatment – usually easy to purchase at most big box stores as well as shoe stores – before you do, so that they are afforded a little more protection from the elements from the start.

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