Traditional Spanish Footwear: Alpargatas, Avarcas and Albarcas

Classic Style
The Alpargata: jute and rubber sole with canvas uppers.

When Isaiah and I visited Spain (Barcelona, Madrid, San Sebastian and Granada) a couple of years ago, I couldn't help but notice the ubiquitous alpargata. We know them in the States as espadrilles, in Catalan they're called espardenyes and from Madrid to Mexico they're called alpargatas.

This traditional shoe is still worn during the summer months by many Spaniards, regardless of economic status, and by people of all ages. Some argue their origins trace back to the Pyrenees (so, think Basque country and Catalonia), while others think they hail from Argentina. Nevertheless, this humble shoe has transformed from a simple worker's shoe to stylish, modern footwear. 

by  Castañer (similar)

Apparently the place to get your hands on a pair is at Casa Hernanz in Madrid. Classics (which are unisex) run around 10 euros and wedges with leather uppers and straps will run around 40 euros. Isaiah and I each got a pair of classics for ourselves, while our moms and my sister received more stylish wedges.

Madras-style by IOU Project
The Avarca: sandals with a rubber sole and leather uppers.

Equally commonplace, especially in Barcelona, was the avarca (variant spelling abarca; also known as menorquinas), which also originated as a worker's shoe, in this case on the island of Menorca. Another summer staple, again, I saw these sandals on everyone from babies to teens to ladies who look like they lunch. They make the wearer give off this "I'm on vacation" vibe that I find very attractive. For me, summer means lazy activities, beach time and lounging and these are the sandals I want to be wearing when I do those things ;)

Classics by PONS

You can't go wrong with the classic (also a unisex shoe), but for something fun, I like the Classic/Mediterranean style in a bright color. They're super comfortable, especially in nubuck. I just found out about a company called Avarcas USA that imports these sandals from Menorca. They're a couple from Barcelona who live here in San Diego! Click here to see if a store near you carries them...

Classic w/ Ankle Strap in Berry by PONS

The Albarca: all-wood, rustic clogs.

Finally, we have the albarca, which I just threw in here for good measure. (Three kinds of shoes that started with the letter A seemed better than two.) These are funky clogs that I've never seen anyone wear, but you can read about them (in Spanish) here.

Photo Credits:
4. and 5. Avarcas USA


  1. The classics! They look like the kind of footwear I'd wear. (Not a heels sort, unfortunately.)

    1. I hear you! Ever since an ankle injury a few years ago, heels and I are not very friendly. The classics are just so comfy!


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