The world is replete with unsexy sandals: chemical-fuming rubber $4.99 flip-flops from drugstores, paper-thin freebies given out après-pedi, and the venerable Birkenstock. The polar opposite of these unattractive slip-ons is the heeled thong. Kim Kardashian West is the latest celebrity to prove that these may be the world’s sexiest sandals. A few days ago, along with her skintight Yeezy garb, she stepped out in Los Angeles while wearing barely-there but statement-making camel-hue thong sandals with a kicky heel.
Ms. Kardashian West’s thong heel, a distant cousin of the “nothing shoe,” is a comeback, specifically to the mid-to-late-’90s era of minimalism that nostalgia Instagram accounts are often trying to reinvigorate. The footwear appeared in the pages of Vogue roughly 20 years ago. (Remember, fashion comes in cycles, often 20-year ones. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Yeezy has been looking backward to propel footwear forward.)
Take a page from the December 1998 issue of Vogue that features royal blue patent leather thong heels by Richard Tyler with an accompanying caption that describes them as “total exposure sandals” that “call for well-groomed toes.” (The caption further goes on to prescribe the now-discontinued Vaseline Intensive Care Solution Smooth Feet.) Later on, in the January 1999 issue, Gisele Bündchen wore a slinky but sturdy black pair by Manolo Blahnik that was labeled “The All-Important Shoe.”
Almost two decades later, the thong heel has the same impact. The seductive appeal of it comes from the wearer’s confidence. After all, it’s a frame for a person’s reptilian, knobby feet. The raised heel that puts the naked ball of the foot on a pedestal, curves the arch, and without shame—like a wriggling “deal with it” broadcast—places the splayed toes on full display. It’s a bold five-phalange look and, with the right pedicure, it can be strangely seductive. Plus, depending on your underwear preferences, even the name—thong!—sounds pretty sexy. It certainly beats the flip-flop.
Here, see the best thong heels to wear for spring and beyond.