Gladiator Sandal

AKA: Roman sandals

How to say it:  glad-ee-ey-ter  san-dl

Traditional Features: 

Gladiator Sandal

  • flat sole
  • can be ankle height or reach as high as the knee
  • multiple straps crisscrossing the foot and leg
  • can be laced or buckled
  • may have a zip closure at centre back to make putting them on and taking them off easier

21st Century Gladiator Sandals

The gladiator style has retained it popularity in the second decade of the 21st century. Available in a huge variety of designs, the gladiator sandal is available on all levels of the modern marketplace and can be found in all types of colours, materials and heights.

Dolce Vita Seychelles

Dolce Vita, Seychelles

Steve Madden Stuart Weitzman

Steve Madden, Stuart Weitzman


…of the style: Gladiator sandals, as the name suggests, were inspired by the shoes worn by Roman Gladiators as far back as the 1st century BC. Donned by gladiators in the arena where they battled for the pleasure of the Roman Empire, these strappy, leather sandals helped keep traction in the bloody sand as they fought for their lives. These gladiatorial games ended around the 5th century AD, and while regular Romans also wore strappy sandals, the gladiator sandal effectively died with the gladiators.

The gladiator sandal didn’t show up in modern fashion until the late 1960s, probably because up until that time, it was considered inappropriate for women to wear shoes that exposed the skin of the foot. While the Roman styles tended to be laced, the modern versions sported multiple buckles and zips on the straps. The multi-strapped trend continued into the 70s as societal dress rules continued to relax; the style then re-emerged again in 1983 as part of an ancient-inspired footwear trend that was big that summer, and again in 1993, thanks to the Versace Spring Collection.

However the gladiator sandals didn’t really hit the height of their popularity until the 21st century. Some sources credit the blockbuster film ‘Gladiator‘ (2000) for the rise in popularity of the style, maybe so or maybe no, but in Calvin Klein‘s 2002 Spring/Summer Collection nearly all the outfits were accessorised by gladiator sandals in various materials, and from there the style continued to evolve as designers got a hold of the look and made it their own. The gladiator style received another boost in 2008 when Gwyneth Paltrow apparently wore a pair to the premiere of ‘Iron Man‘ and from then the shoe has been a staple on the footwear landscape.

As the footwear market moves into the 20-teens the gladiator sandal is prolific, with styles hitting stores in a variety of heights, designs, materials and price points and is loved by modern women for its versatile style and sophisticated look. While not an ideal style for the colder months, it is unlikely the gladiator sandal will disappear from the summer market anytime soon.

…of the name: The multi-strapped sandals were inspired by sandals worn by Gladiators of Ancient Rome.

For more info on Gladiator Sandals try Gladiator Sandals, Ellen Duffer, Style Studio or WiseGeek

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