Shopping for shoes is tricky in the summer, not only because finding a pair that doesn’t bestow blisters upon my sock-less toes is an exploratory challenge worthy of Lewis and Clark, but also because the “wear and tear” element of shoe-to-pavement contact is considerably heightened when the weather is balmy and all I want to do is walk outside. Indulging in lengthy summer strolls is lovely for my mental health and terrible for any of my shoes that aren’t sneakers or Birkenstocks.
But sometimes I want to have my cake and eat it, too, i.e. go on a walk in shoes that are more than just functional. Maybe I’m going out to dinner at a nice-ish restaurant and want to walk the 30 or so minutes it takes to get there in suitably nice-ish shoes, or maybe I want to walk to a market appointment instead of taking the subway but sneakers don’t go with my ensemble. Regardless of the reason, there are definitely certain scenarios in which I require shoes that look great but aren’t overly precious. Shoes I love that don’t cost an entire paycheck. Shoes I can wear again and again and again over the course of the summer and look at by the end of August and say to myself: “Those truly paid for themselves.”
Below, find nine pairs of summer shoes under $200 that will fulfill their cost-per-thrill requirements with flying colors (all of which were scouted by market assistant extraordinaire Elizabeth C. Tamkin).
1. The Wedge Espadrille
Wedge espadrilles have been a THING ever since the Manic Pixie Dream Girl With a Straw Basket aesthetic exploded on Instagram. They’re more of a classic staple than a trend, though, and for good reason considering they are comfortable, elevate any outfit with a dose of “insert baguette and bicycle here” and don’t cost a bajillion dollars. This green pair would look so great with a one-piece swimsuit and white button-down by the pool huh?
2. The Cage Sandal
If you’re as big a fan of stripes as I am, consider the cage sandal, which is basically a Breton shirt for your feet. Leave them on for an extended period of time and you might find yourself the proud owner of a striped suntan, too.
3. The Slipper
Leandra has been really into raffia shoes lately and I think I’ve caught the bug because I’m obsessed with these!!!! And they’re $58! I’m almost mad at Elizabeth for finding them because now I’ve developed a very particular ache behind my belly button, which I know from experience is an unattended desire to purchase something. Who am I to say no to my belly button?
4. The Gladiator
A simple, lace-up gladiator sandal is to summer as salt and pepper are to scrambled eggs. Not only do they go with every outfit, from casual denim shorts to a wispy cocktail dress, but they also are the easiest thing in the world to throw in a weekend bag or sling over your shoulder even, thus making them the embodiment of practical.
5. The Slide
I recently wrote about how I think I might want jelly sandals again, which might be why these jelly slides are calling to me at such a loud decibel. They’re the perfect, grown-up version of pool sandals and they cost less than $6, which is half the price of most Sweetgreen salads.
6. The Kitten Heel Sandal
Zara has been cranking out some really, really, really great shoes lately, and these strappy sandals are no exception. First of all, they’re $60, and second of all, they look fancy and comfortable at the same time, which is a feat tantamount to qualifying for the Olympics — practically speaking.
7. The Block Heel Sandal
The block heel may have reached its saturation point a while back, as far as trend life cycles go, but the fact remains that they are the most comfortable elevated shoe situation in the whole entire solar system. I have a pair of block heel sandals that I can literally walk in all day (10,000+ steps) without getting blisters, so I’m already a fan and looking to augment my collection. Perhaps with a Gen-Z yellow pair, hmm?
8. The Dr. Scholl
I don’t know what it is about Dr. Scholl’s that makes them so consistently appealing (their simplicity? Their arch support? Their cultural caché?), but there’s no doubt about it: they are cool. Cooler still is the brand’s collaboration with Urban Outfitters, which has resulted in a capsule of translucent renderings worthy of a modern-day Cinderella. I’ll take the lilac ones, please and thank you.
9. The “X Marks the Spot” Sandal
Okay, this isn’t technically one of the more widely-recognized sandal categories, but it’s an important one nonetheless. Sometimes, especially in the summertime, you just need a shoe that shouts I’m so relaxed from the rooftops of your upper arches, and these simple slip-on-and-go sandals featuring a classic crossed strap are just the thing. X marks the spot indeed.
Now tell me, did you see anything that tickled your belly button’s fancy?
Market by Elizabeth Tamkin; Photos by Madeline Montoya; Art Direction by Emily Zirimis. Year and Day bowls used throughout.