Hurray! The sensible sandal is making a comeback

·3 min read
alyson walsh hair - Clara Molden
alyson walsh hair - Clara Molden

Something quite shocking has happened over the past few weeks. Whisper it… I’ve become bored with Birkenstocks. My decades-long love affair with the laid-back, comfy shoe reached its zenith during the pandemic – and earlier this year the German footwear brand was acquired by the LVMH group to the tune of £3.5 billion. (No surprise there, Bernaud Arnault knows a money-spinner when he sees one, and comfortable shoes are here to stay.)

My recent change of perspective is probably because after shuffling around in the same worn-down style for the past 16 months, my feet, eyes and spirits are all craving something more substantial. So this summer, I’m moving on from socks and ’Stocks and embarking on a new relationship with a more sophisticated partner. I’d like to introduce you to my latest love: the fisherman’s sandal.

My knowledge of fashion terminology is exemplary (or so I think) but this nomenclature is relatively new to me. As a complete landlubber, I’ve always used the term “sensible” to describe the classic, covered-up summer shoe – and I can’t say I’ve ever seen a sailor in sandals… No matter. Forget sou’westers and waders, this summer, I want to look like Carey Mulligan in the film The Dig. Quintessentially English in natural, earthy tones and practical weather-appropriate clothing. Or what I like to call “Margaret Howell on a budget”.

Clara Molden alyson walsh - Clara Molden
Clara Molden alyson walsh - Clara Molden

Alyson wears her own shirt (from Arket last year); Wide leg linen trousers, £79, Cos. Silver Drift Earrings, £185, Bar Jewellery; Salo sunglasses, £35, A. Kjaerbede at Wolf & Badger; Siracuse Fisherman Sandal, £275, Russell & Bromley

And the good news for those planning a staycation is that fisherman’s sandals are effective in the wet or dry and look lovely with a neat shirt-dress, a pullover and waterproof mac.

The popular fisherman’s friend is selling out fast, but independent, sustainable company Blackhorse Lane Atelier has just launched a vegetable-tanned leather sandal in red, navy, black, camel and dark brown (£125). Both Russell & Bromley and Arket are running a chunky, flatform version, whereas Toast’s wider-fitting offering looks like something my dad used to wear for crown green bowling. And that, dear readers, is not an insult. In his knitted polo shirt, chinos and gentleman’s sandals, Mr Walsh cut a fine figure on the green.

sandals
sandals

Cage leather sandals, £135, Arket; Black Luella fisherman sandals, £28, Schuh; Portland fisherman sandals, £195, Russell & Bromley

And, you may have noticed my penchant for flat, comfy shoes or sneakers. This is in step (sorry) with my almost lifelong policy of “zero tolerance” to sore feet. I’ve only lapsed once, when as a fashion editor, I would commute in trainers and then squeeze into the toe-crushing, kitten heels harboured under my desk. That was almost 20 years ago.

What I’m hankering after now is an elegant, summer shoe for walking everywhere in. Versatile enough to wear with cotton dresses, full skirts and a favourite pair of jeans. No bothersome cheese-wire thong lacerating the skin between the toe; no narrow, blister-inducing straps across the feet.

toast nrby this works been london john lewis
toast nrby this works been london john lewis

Indigo lattice block print cotton shirt, £125, Toast; Shelley linen dress, £130, Nrby; Thought denim
culottes, £84.95, John Lewis; Monier bucket bag, £225, Been London; Perfect heels rescue balm, £16, This Works; Ilha necklace, £130, Gather&See

And the most important requirement of all: maximum bunion protection. No one wants to see my knobbly feet and to be quite honest, I would prefer to keep my podiatry problems covered.

Read Alyson Walsh's weekly column on The Telegraph every Saturday from 6am

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