Summer Sandals 2024

With many popular favourites returning and brand new options having arrived over the last two months, there's an unprecedented amount of choice.

Let's take a look at all of the sandals and break them down so you'll know which sandals would suit you best.

We'll look at dressy options, sporty options, and set-up how to!

Dressy Sandals and Summery Flats

Left to right: Orchid, Poppy, Bellissima, Iris, Opanka, Grace sandals.

From elevated elegance to effortless ease, these sandals and dressy flats are feminine and stylish, made for casual strolling and attending special events.

You'll want to reach for one of these barefoot sandals if you're going to a wedding, or maybe just to the patio on a Sunday afternoon. Style them with flowy dresses, cut-offs, and billowy linens.

What these are not made for: long walks, athletics, or blending in. People will definitely be asking you where you got these!

There is not a huge amount of variety when it comes to material, fit, and function here. Most of these models have a very barefoot feeling, but the Bellissima has a thicker cushy insole (optional). They all have leather, though we do have vegan options in sport sandals and dressy sneakers.

Top to bottom: Orchid and Poppy.

Shapen's summery flats will take you well into fall in their deeper colour options, though the Poppy also comes in lighter colours.

We're finding the velvety suede on the Orchid feels softer and feels very comfortable during break-in. The Poppy will mold to your feet with wear too, but they hold their shape more firmly to start.

Our customers tend to go a size down in these two Shapen models.

Top to bottom: Bellissima and Opanka sandals.

Be Lenka's Bellissima flat comes in stunning rose gold or black this year. They suit slender, low-volume feet best. The Vivobarefoot Opanka sandals have a more rustic or modern style in brown or black and an average fit for women's sizing in barefoot shoes.

Both of these models feature cut-out detailing for a peekaboo effect, and are slip-on-off with elastic for a cozy fit. They are not adjustable.

These are the best dressy options for every day wear due to their versatile style and sturdy construction.

Our customers take their regular size in these casual chic models.

Top to bottom: Iris and Grace from Be Lenka

For a strictly strappy summer sandal, try Be Lenka's adjustable models, the Iris (black only) or Grace (off white or tan).

These suit average width and volume feet best, but the Velcro straps over the front of the foot allow for some customization. Most customers take their regular size in these Be Lenka sandals.

The Grace is a returning favourite, and the Iris is new to us this year. While they're not the flashiest options they are so versatile, you can really dress them up or down for different occasions.

The Iris with a LBD? Yes. With an oversize tee and denim shorts? Also yes. The Grace's lighter colours really lend themselves to sundresses and beach east coast looks.

Sporty Sandals for Switchbacks and Kickbacks

Left to Right: Rope Sandals, Aqua Cloud, Z-Trail EV, Z-Trek

While Xero is The Brand for sporty sandals, we also carry Earth Runners and Nomadic State of Mind Rope Sandals.

Xero has a ton of options so we narrowed it down to four main sandals. The Z- Series (nothing between your toes) and the running sandal designs based on Raramuri sandals, made famous by the Born To Run book. You can read about the Indigenous inspired design on our blog here.

In Xero's Z- Series we've got the cushy and grippy Z-Trail EV for hiking, travelling, camping, and casual wear. They're great for transitioning to minimal shoes in summer, too!

We also have the more barefoot feeling Z-Trek, a favourite of urban barefoot runners who don't like anything between the toes.

Apart from the Trail EV being more cushy with a hiking sole, and the Trek having a milder grip with tons of barefoot feeling and flexibility, there are a few other differences between these similar styles: The Trek fits a little longer and narrower at the same size than the Trail EV. Secondly, the Trail EV floats in water, and the Trek doesn't.

People tend to wear their usual size for all Xero sandals, or go down half a size since they are only offered in full sizes.

Let's look at how to set up the Z-Series Xero sandals!

Z-Trail EV set up vs new

The Z-Series has a distinct zig zag design with one long strap in three sections: across the forefoot, diagonally across the midfoot, and over the ankle. Each of these sections can be adjusted. Finally, there is a Velcro heel strap to keep them secured to your foot.

Setting up the zig zag strap can take a few tries but after you get it customized to your foot it will stay put indefinitely!

Start out by opening up the Velcro and loosening the zig zag strap. 

Make sure you treat this* area with care! You want to pull the strap out where it peeks through the rubber to give it slack. That rubber is designed to be super grippy, so trying to tug the strap through from the zig zag areas over the forefoot and midfoot can damage the sandal.

Next, slide you foot in. 

The strap over the toes and forefoot should be comfortably snug. Using the slack* you made on the outside, you can add a little more room for your toes if needed, or begin with the midfoot if the forefoot feels good.

Tightening the midfoot strap:

This step tightens the slack* we made. Tighten the strap to sit just flush with your foot, it doesn't need to be overly tight.

Next, continue moving up the strap towards your foot, pulling the straps gently into place.

You will end up at the end of the zig zag strap over the ankle.

Tuck the excess strap into the elastic.

Finally, it's time for the heel strap!

Top tip: If you feel like there's not enough heel strap, you may have over tightened the zig zag strap at the midfoot and over the ankle. Loosen those areas slightly and try again.

And voila! You have a cute and sporty sandal customized to your exact foot. These instructions work for the Z-Trail EV and the Z-Trek.

Z-Trail EV


Xero Running Sandals: Aqua Cloud and H-Trail

These two sporty sandals have a strap design that goes between the big toe and second toe, then forks into a Y shape to secure their fit all the way around the ankle. Since they are secured to your foot you don't have to grip to keep them on, making them better for sustainable functional movement and more comfortable than flip-flop thong style sandals.

The Aqua Cloud is a familiar favourite, offering a blend of comfort and barefoot feeling with a grip designed for beach and lake activities like paddle board.

That said, Vogue recently featured the similar Genesis model (same straps) in a feature on how sporty sandals are now fashionable to wear with dresses, so it's really up to you- experiment and have fun!

The main features of the Aqua Cloud are their grip on wet surfaces, a thin and flexible sole, and a thin layer of cloud-like cushion. They also float in water.

This year's new Xero Sandal, the H-Trail, has a similar strap shape, but the way you'll adjust the fit is much more intuitive.

The H-Trail is designed for multi-purpose use. They're all rounders, but just because they're a jack of all trades and master of none, doesn't make them mid. They may just hit the sweet spot for your life and your feet!

The H-Trail can do light hiking, it's perfect for casual wear around town, and great for barefoot running. Like the Aqua Cloud they have a mix of cushion and groundfeel with a thinner sole than the Z-Trail EV (thicker than the Z-Trek).

Setting Up Your Running Sandals

Let's look at the Aqua Cloud then the H-Trail.
Left sandal is set up, right sandal is brand new.
The Aqua Cloud has three straps: one goes from between the toes then back to loop through the hole in the side, then into the buckle and ends in a toggle. The second starts in a sliding fastening along the first, then loops back through the sole on the other side. The third is the heel strap. 

Good to know:
The sliding fastening slides down to put the shoes on, and up to secure them.

Before setting up the Aqua Cloud, give yourself some slack to work with. If you're pulling the straps backwards through he buckles, watch out for the plastic teeth inside the buckles as they can nick the straps.

The first step to setting up the Aqua Cloud is to adjust how much volume we want in the forefoot and midfoot.

If there's not enough room for your foot to slide in, the two forefoot to side straps need to be adjusted forwards. On each side of the sandal, find where the straps come through the sole, then go inwards and to the front of the shoe. You want to pull these gently up for more forefoot volume. 

Top tip:
try the above if it feels like the thong strap digs in between your toes.

If you have too much room in the front of the sandals and need to decrease the volume, you'll move the straps in the opposite direction.

Where the two straps loop through the sole, we want to find the outside section and pull it out gently.

Once you're happy with the amount of room for the forefoot, continue by putting the sandal on.

Once the sandal is on, slide the second strap's sliding fastening up to secure it.

The sliding fastening should sit in a comfortable place on your foot, find what feels right for you.

Next you'll take the excess slack out of the ends by grabbing the toggles on each side and pulling them forwards. Try to keep the rubber heel grip centered on the heel strap.

All done! If they ended up a little lopsided you may need to play with them a bit until they're just right, experiment and see what works for you. The Aqua Cloud should be snug around your foot but not too tight.

Ready for an afternoon at the beach!

When it comes to the H-Trail, we're still learning the best ways to set them up. You want to aim for the same feeling, snug and secure to your foot, but not too tight.

Let's look at the areas you can adjust on the H-Trail.

As you can see the straps are a little different but follow the same concept as the ones on the Aqua Cloud.

Again here we have a sliding part where the two side straps connect over the midfoot (1). You can adjust the forefoot volume with the end of the strap through the slider at (2) and the Velcro at (3). Finally, you have the heel strap (4).

Top Tip: if you don't seem to have enough heel strap, you may have tightened the forefoot areas too much. Also, aim for a roughly even set up side-to-side, this seems to work best.

Getting in and out of the H-Trail is fast: slide the heel strap down and slip out, or use the heel strap's Velcro fastening for donning and doffing.

Nomad Rope Sandals

The Rope sandals are a bit of an anomaly at Cool East Market. While they meet the standards for a minimal shoe, they are really just for casual use as the heel strap doesn't secure enough for longer walks or athletics.

You can slide the heel strap up and down but it doesn't stay where you put it.
However, the price point is great. If you're looking for something to wear around the house and garden these are perfect.

Top Tip: you can wear the rope sandals with the heel strap flipped up in front of the ankle as a slide (like crocs).

Left side has the heel strap around the heel, right side has the heel strap flipped forward to use as a slide.

There are two things you need to know before wearing the rope sandals. First, do not get them wet! They are porous and take forever to dry. Second, they will stretch out and mold to your feet, and become a lot more flexible with wear! Very comfy.

What about Earth Runners?

Honestly, they already made a resource like this for their sandals and it's really useful! It includes videos on set up and FAQ about what adjustments to make based on what it feels like on your feet.

Ivan wearing Earth Runners on left.

We love our Earth Runners but we can't deny they have a steep learning curve. If you can adjust them to your feet though, they are our top pick for a durable sandal that you can take on any kind of adventure.

Plus, in our experience Earth Runners tend to train you out of bad walking habits: you will feel the way you walk based on light pressure in the laces, so it will feel best to walk with a good barefoot gait!

So if you are up for the challenge, try them out! Earth Runners suit wide feet well, and they don't disappoint for the higher price point- they are so long lasting and tough!

Top Tip for Earth Runners sandals: once you've set them up and decided to keep them, put them on and get in the shower! Getting them wet then wearing them as they dry speeds up the break in process so they feel softer and more comfortable much faster.

Got Questions?

Feeling information overload? Sometimes it's easier to get some help!

If you can visit us, that's the best way to get help setting up sandals.

If not, drop us a line by email and we'll see what we can do to help you out!
It does take a little trial and error to set up sandals. Take them on short outings or wear them around the house to start, especially if you're new to minimal shoes. That way if there are friction spots you need to adjust for or you need a break to take them off it's easy to do so.

It takes most people a week or two of casual wear to get used to a new sandals, you might build up healthy callouses, get used to new sensations, and troubleshoot the fit and set up in that time.

We think it's totally worth the wait, minimal sandals feel great and help your feet get strong and skilled all summer!