What do you wear on your feet at the beach? Our panel with sand between their toes test holiday footwear

Most people claim to like beaches, associating them with holidays and relaxation. But sea, sand and sun offer challenges to skin and clothing alike. Footwear fares worst, especially if it's made of leather. Synthetic shoes and sandals survive better, but pose their own drawbacks in terms of looks and comfort. Another factor is price. You can buy flip-flops for pounds 1, but you'll feel every stone. So what should you buy if you're planning a weekend by the seaside, or a beach holiday abroad?


We went in search of something durable for our test, a shoe that was suitable for all terrains and weather. Though our aim initially was to find six products that were each suitable for men, women and children, this was soon abandoned. Men, we found, do not wear elasticated plimsolls any more than little boys wear flip-flops decorated with beads and glitter. Our main criteria were comfort, cost and resistance to rough treatment.


Our testers were Justin Silk, outdoor enthusiast; Lyndsay Scott, traveller; Beth and David Jones (aged six and five); and, to comment on health and comfort, chiropodist Uche N'Kabu.


Lace-ups, pounds 15 for women, pounds 10 for children; men's slip-ons, pounds 16

These nostalgic canvas shoes reminded our testers of school plimsolls, and were generally admired for style ("not too clumpy, so you can wear them with jeans or dresses" - Lyndsay Scott). They have padded insoles and a leather collar to prevent rubbing, unlike cheaper versions.

David and Beth Jones liked them, but only for a specific purpose: "crabbing on the rocks". It didn't matter when they got wet, because "they dried out quickly". Uche N'Kabu said they were cute, but not supportive enough for long walks. They should definitely be worn with socks - a verdict Justin Silk soon confirmed when his elasticated slip-on dug into his bare skin. This seemed a basic design fault. "Surely the point is to wear them with bare feet?" he complained. What he did like was that they stood up to a thorough machine-wash.


Children pounds 34.99; adults pounds 39.99

This was the wild card in our test, and it fared surprisingly well. Testing our range of beach footwear on British beaches in the chill winds of May, our panel found Clarks classic Desert Boots - designed for walking on sand, after all - perfect protection against the cold, as well as hard pebbles, wet shale and slippery rocks.

Uche N'Kabu voted these her favourites for a holiday in variable weather, since the treated suede uppers, while not waterproof, resist stains from salt water and keep the sun off your feet. The rubber soles are much more flexible than regular boots ("great for walking, too" - Justin Silk) and the style, with convenient minimal lacing for small fingers, appeared to suit both David and Beth Jones. They gave these the ultimate accolade - "very grown up."

Lyndsay Scott wore hers with socks and khaki shorts, and found the outfit "very fetching". If you took these and the Reef Brazils on holiday, you would be covered for all occasions, the panel decided.


Available in adult sizes only, pounds 8

Having quickly established that most people need one size bigger than normal in these canvas espadrilles (as Uche N'Kabu predicted, the crocheted toe cap prevents big toes penetrating whole length of the shoe), our adult testers were enthusiastic about them. "Of course the heel gets trodden down," said Lyndsay Scott, "but that's how you're meant to wear them - it's fashionable." There was a general acknowledgement that the canvas upper is soft and comfortable, letting hot feet breathe, while the rope sole is a wonderfully simple, cheap way to absorb sweat. Espadrilles are "one season" footwear ("they rot," said Lyndsay Scott), but the price and attractive bright summer colours made this seem fine. But beware aching arches; once the heels are trodden down, you carry the shoe at every step.


Children's sizes only, pounds 8.95

These bejewelled jellies, made in a flipflop style with glittery spangling soles and an image of the popular Disney character Pocahontas on the toe strap, prompted a big clap of delight from Beth Jones. Declaring them "the most beautiful sandals ever made", she was not easily dissuaded from wearing them all the time - in particular, at school. Sadly, there is no masculine equivalent for boys. Mrs Jones pointed out, however, that children don't usually wear flip-flops because they run around so much. These ones, though, seemed to encourage Beth to behave "like a little princess". Surprisingly, Uche N'Kabu waved their impracticalities aside, saying they were inexpensive, strongly made and had fairytale qualities that parents ought to indulge.


Stompers for children, pounds 14.95; Smoothly for adults, pounds 24.95.

These Californian, all-terrain "convertibles" (transformed from flip- flop to sandal by the attachment of a Velcro strap) were invented by a couple of Chilean surf bums, and are available from watersports outlets and retailers of trendy men's clothing. They proved to be our panel's all-round favourites.

Justin Silk has worn Reef Brazils for years, and vouches for their absolute comfort and suitability for "summer hikes, beach use, and even climbing over rocks" - though "sand does get under the Velcro". The straps keep the sandals on in the water where they "stop the sharp stones hurting your feet" (Beth), or come off to allow for more aeration - essential on beaches in South Africa, apparently, where Lyndsay Scott has worn them in savage temperatures and found them "indestructible".

Uche N'Kabu praised the possibility of adjusting the toe straps so that even people with shallow feet would find them secure. Torn between these and the Desert Boots, she said she would pack these for a holiday in warm climes.

Beth Jones liked her "Velcro shoes" and wore them on and off the beach; her brother put his away, saying unfathomably that he "would like them when I'm older."


Tobago model for adults, pounds 25.95; Barbados for children, pounds 13.95.

Made from a patented synthetic material called "Birko-Flor", these shoes (available both as sandals and flip-flops) were chosen for their health- promoting and water- repellent properties. They have textured soles like the non-slip surface surrounding some swimming pools, moulded into shallow peaks and troughs to mimic the shape of your foot and with a pronounced lip on all edges to prevent sliding.

Lyndsay Scott liked the crunchy feeling of the soles, and David and Beth appreciated the nice, comfy fleece on the inside of the sandals' synthetic straps. They were so enamoured of the Barbados's jazzy looks that they refused to try them out in the sea, fearing "they might float away". They felt confident enough to wear them in the bath, however.

Only Justin Silk, supplied with a "dreary black" pair of Tobagos, complained they were "sandals with no sense of humour" which "felt like flippers". Uche N'Kabu pointed out that water would accumulate in the heel cup when the Birkenstocks got wet, which could cause fissuring of dry heel skin. The position of the straps makes big feet look even bigger. But these were minor criticisms, she felt, when "these are the closest you can get to walking barefoot."


Birkenstock 0800 132194; Reef Brazil 01243 673666; Pocahontas from Disney Stores nationwide, or call 01923 220022; Marks & Spencer, stores nationwide; Racing Green, Regent Street, London W1 or mail order 0345 331177; Clarks Desert Boots, stores nationwide. !


Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea


In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops


Arts and Entertainment
Full circle: Wu-Tang’s Method Man Getty

Music review

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game