Slippers are common household items that serve a specific purpose. They provide comfort and protection for the feet when walking indoors. Next to sandals, slippers are the oldest type of shoe that still exists.
As creature comforts have evolved over the past few centuries, so too have slippers. Although many well-to-do types have purchased or even customized slippers almost as a part of their home décor, the truth is that many less well-to-do people have enjoyed slippers for relaxing around the home.
Thanks to mass production, slippers are now quite commonplace around the world with many different styles and designs.
For those who are shopping for slippers, there are many types of footwear that have similarities, but also considerable differences.
Understanding what slippers are, how they function, and their differences from other footwear will help you make the best-informed decision about what type will fit your needs along with your wallet.
A slipper is considered a light piece of footwear that is designed to be worn indoors, especially for home use. They are made from soft materials, have a hard sole, and fabric that wraps around the foot to help hold the slipper in place.
Until relatively recently, slippers were mostly hand-made, often by the person who wore them, or perhaps they had some help. In such cases, slippers were generally made from the materials that were available. The primary function was to keep the feet warm and provide some protection as well. A good pair of slippers were appreciated, especially on cold nights.
Slippers can be identified by their specific design traits which begin with the name itself. The slipper is designed to be easily “slipped” onto the foot. That means they are designed with the following in mind.
- Comfortable, stretchy fabric that fits around the foot
- Hard sole
- Designed for breathability and comfort
- Often uses colorful designs or patterns
Of course, there are variations of slippers that include harder materials around the toe. And some may be worn outdoors as well, albeit in a limited way. Slippers have a hard sole in case you need to step outside to pick up the paper for example. Otherwise, they are primarily designed to be worn inside.
Slippers are also generally flat with little arch support. However, there are certain designs that either include more support for the arches or inserts that can be used. But having said that, slippers are not designed for walking. They are designed to fit comfortably while you stand, sit, or lay down.
Understanding the differences between slippers and other types of footwear starts with one of the more popular items, sliders.
This is more along the lines of a category and not a specific type. All slippers are designed for indoor use. But some slippers can be worn outside because they have hard soles which protects them from the ground, sand, or pavement with the notable exception of flip flops. In-house slippers are designed to be worn primarily indoors and usually denote comfort and style as opposed to durability.
In-house slippers can be made from any material associated with footwear, but they often have soft soles as opposed to hardened ones such as rubber or plastic. They are often quite stylish and designed for appearance as much as comfort.
A general category of slippers rather than a specific type, outdoor slippers are designed as the name suggests to be worn outdoors. They will have a hard sole that is flexible but designed for outdoor environments. They will mostly enclose the feet and are made for short-distance excursions such as getting the morning paper, retrieving letters from the mailbox, and taking a short walk to visit the neighbor.
But they are not designed for long-distance walking as that falls into the category of being a shoe. Outdoor slippers encompass different types such as moccasins, flip flops, and sliders.
What follows are the two basic types of slippers, closed heel, and open heel. Each type will have several different styles of slipper that either have an open or closed heel.
Related: Where can You Wear Flip Flops?
Closed Heel Slippers
A closed slipper is arguably the most common type of slipper. These are slippers that fully enclose the foot from toes to heel. They are normally made from flexible materials such as fabric, plastic, or other substance. The difference between closed slippers and shoes is one of purpose. A closed slipper is designed to be worn indoors.
Closed slippers are often plain, but many will have decorative patterns or color schemes. They often have hard plastic soles which will make a noise on wooden or tile floors.
It might be argued that ballet slippers are more like socks. They are made from very soft material and designed to wrap the feet much like a sock or moccasin. The difference is that the material itself is designed for the specific purpose of ballet.
A ballet slipper does enclose the heel, albeit barely, and will have soft straps that secure the slipper to the ankle. The slipper itself is designed for presentation, which is why it is associated with the ballet. However, it can also be worn for elegant occasions.
These are slippers that mimic the shape of boots without heels or booties as they are often called. Booties are most associated with babies which are slipped over and fully enclose the feet up to the ankle. The size and weight of the slipper keep it on the feet, but it is not a tight fit.
Bootie slippers are often made from leather with a fleece or fur lining for extra warmth. Some bootie slippers resemble “Beatle Boots”, which is footwear made famous by The Beatles in the 1960s.
This type of slipper resembles clogs which are common in the Netherlands. A clog is a fully enclosed shoe or slipper that is made from hard materials or soft materials. They are closed slippers, but just barely as the heel is quite low.
Clog slippers will normally be made from fabrics with fleece lining. The sole is flexible and the slipper itself is made for comfort. However, they are not well suited to extended walking because of the low heel.
This is a decorative slipper that is often called a “Prince Albert”. This refers to Albert, Prince Consort who made this type of slipper famous. However, evening slippers is the more familiar term.
The slipper itself is made from velvet and features a grosgrain bow. You can often find the initials of the person who owns the slippers on the top. Plus, the soles are made from leather. This type of slipper is meant to be more expensive but offers considerable comfort combined with its style to make a statement.
This is a slipper that is made entirely from soft leather. The term “moccasin” is an Algonquian word that applies to all similar footwear created by Native Americans. The term stuck because the Algonquian tribe was the first encountered by the European settlers.
There is no separate heel and it surrounds the foot for protection. Using a simple gathered seam the moccasin can be worn outdoors as it was designed, although the soft leather will wear out quickly when walking on hard surfaces.
Again, this is more of a general category rather than a specific type of slipper design. As the name suggests, they are slippers designed primarily to slip on your feet. They have a similar appearance to Oxford shoes but without the laces. The soft, flexible fabric which typically makes up slip-on hugs the heel of the foot.
Primarily designed for comfort, slip-on are often simple in color design and lack patterns as well. However, they are quite popular, especially in the UK.
These are slippers designed to appear as boots. In most cases, slipper boots will mimic sheepskin boots that are often worn in colder climates. This type of footwear will usually be made from fleece and have a soft lining, but with a hard sole made of plastic or similar material.
Slipper boots are mostly worn by women and are can be worn outside to protect the feet for short distances. But they should not be mistaken for standard boots.
Open Heel Slippers
Open: As the name suggests these are slippers that leave the heel open, so you can slide your foot in and out easily. The layer over the toes and front of the foot is normally made of fabric, although it can be of any material. This type of slipper is commonly associated with the well-to-do and often has decorative patterns.
Open heel slippers are commonly distributed by five-star hotels. The downside of the open heel slipper is that it has no support for the heel, so it is not designed for walking any appreciable distance.
Possible the most recognizable version of open heel slippers, flip flops are both open-toed and open heeled and found primarily on the beach. However, flip flops can be worn outdoors when the temperatures are warm.
Flip flops resemble sliders, but there are two differences. Flip flops are often made from soft, flexible material as opposed to stiff sliders. And, flip flops have a strap that covers the toes and attaches between the big toe and second toe.
The name itself comes from the slapping sound as it flexes when you walk. Flip flops are often quite simple in color or pattern as they are primarily designed for comfort and not appearance.
The main difference between sandals and flip flops is sandals use thongs to attach the soles and wrap around the ankle, and flip flops use Y shaped strap to hold the soles but do not have any strap to secure the ankle.
This is s a type of slipper that is designed to mimic a sandal. Sandals are essentially a sole with straps that attach them to the foot. The sandal is the oldest type of footwear. Sandal slippers operate in the same manner as traditional sandals but are meant to be worn indoors. This type of slipper is open-toed and is often made from leather or other flexible material.
Sandal slippers are not meant to be worn in colder climates, but they do protect the bottom of the feet. They come in different colors, but the overall style is roughly the same.
This is another term used for open heel slippers. The name scuff comes from the sound the slipper makes when walking. Because the heel is open, it allows the slipper to slap or scuff the surface making a distinctive noise. Scuff slippers can be made from leather, plastic, or fabrics and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns.
Sliders: A slider is an open heel slipper that is also open-toed. They are made from a stiff material and are designed for easy access, hence the name. Unlike traditional slippers, sliders are designed to be worn outdoors when walking on hot sand. They are not designed for extended walking because of the open heel nature of the footwear.
Slipper socks occupy a unique category of slippers because they are just socks. They have rubber or plastic nodes that provide a non-slip surface, so you can walk in the socks without the fabric touching the floor. The socks would not be comfortable wearing inside a shoe.
Slipper socks not quite slippers, but they function in the same manner. They are quite practical as the socks can be rolled up and carried easier compared to standard slippers.
It also should be noted that certain types of shoes may fall into the category of slippers based mostly on being worn indoors. However, there are definite differences between shoes and slippers, so choosing the right one will start with the purpose of the footwear itself.
Differences Between Slippers and House Shoes
It should be noted that house shoes is a generic term used to describe a wide range of shoes that are designed primarily to be worn in the home. While the same can be said of slippers, house shoes incorporate styles of shoes apart from slippers in their context.
Arguably the major difference is that slippers are designed to be “slipped” on the foot. House shoes incorporate different designs that may not include that feature. Quite often, house shoes are an old pair of standard shoes that have been used for other purposes. An old pair of sneakers, a pair of casual shoes, or even another type of indoor footwear that is designed differently compared to slippers.
Generally speaking, house shoes may include the slipper family, but they are not slippers by the classic definition. Consider this when you are looking for comfortable footwear for inside the home.
Related: Top 10 Best Men’s House Shoes
Differences Between Slippers and Flip Flops
Flip flops may be one of the most common items of footwear in the world. A variation of the sandal, flip flops are easy to wear, comfortable, and can be used both indoors and outdoors. The name derives from the slapping sound they make when walking.
They are most associated with the beach thanks to their thick foam padding to protect the feet from the hot sand. They also do not require socks. The most common type of sock would not work when wearing a flip flop thanks to how they are constructed.
The simple design is about the only connection between flip flops and most slippers. The differences are considerable.
- Flip flops have no back
- Flip flops attach the strap to the sole between the big and second toe
- Slippers are made for comfort while flip flops are made to be practical
Flip flops are most notable for the thick foam soles that are designed for practical protection when on the beach. They are also quite colorful and are made to be seen if only to find them easily before putting them on.
Flip flops are similar to slides or sliders since they have no backing. But are different in how the strap attaches to the sole. This is what keeps them on the foot with the pressure applied by the toes to hole the flip flops in place.
Because flip flops have no back support, they are not made to be worn for long-distance walking. They do work well in the sand, are easy to clean, and with a little care they can last for quite a while. However, they are also quite cheap, so most people will simply throw away their old, worn out pair for a new one.
Differences Between Slippers and Sandals
Sandals are the oldest type of shoe in the world. They predate the historical record and primitive versions of sandals were arguably worn tens of thousands of years ago. The sandal is the most basic form of shoes. They are made from soft, natural materials such as leather that slide over the feet. They have a back strap that fits below the ankle which secures them in place.
Interestingly enough, the oldest sandals ever found were located in Oregon, USA. Radiocarbon dating of the sandals thanks to the sagebrush bark used to create them lists their age at being at least 10,000 years old.
Although many sandals secure the straps to the sole, the connection point is usually not between the toes like a flip flop. Instead, a strap that fits over the toes and across the top of the foot from side to side is used. Today, sandals are still quite popular. Often made from modern materials, they come in different styles and uses.
There are some visual similarities between slippers and sandals. But the major difference is that sandals are primarily made for the outdoors while slippers are primarily for indoor use. Although typical sandals do not last as long as conventional shoes, some can be quite durable when made from tough materials and the proper care is taken.
Another difference is that sandals tend to be open, allowing the feet to breathe and stay cool. While slippers tend to be warm and cozy. The differences between slippers and sandals are quite noticeable, especially if you are shopping for an indoor shoe.
Difference Between Slippers and Chappals
Chappals are essentially sandals that are made in India. The people of India have been wearing chappals for many centuries.
- Leather construction
- Durable soles
- Used for indoor and outdoor footwear
However, the major difference between chappals and slippers is that slippers are not primarily used outdoors. In fact, slippers are made for indoor use only. This means that they do not have the tough soles compared to chappals. While you can wear chappals as slippers, you cannot wear slippers as chappals for outdoor use.
Difference Between Slippers and Mules
Although many may consider mules to be a relatively recent development in footwear, they really go back several centuries. They are most noted for being created during the height of the Roman Empire.
They performed a function similar to slippers in that they were meant to be worn indoors. Despite the name being an equine breed, mules comes from the Latin, which means either backless shoe or slipper. Mules are characterized by the following.
- No back
- Short heels
- Durable, hard materials
Although both slippers and mules are designed for indoor use, the main differences are that mules are generally made from harder materials and have no back. While slippers use softer materials that are designed to slip comfortably around the feet, mules use denser materials that the feet slide into for wear.
Difference Between Slippers and Floaters
Floaters are an open type of footwear that may appear similar to thongs or flip-flops. They are generally made with hard materials, particularly the sole and designed for outdoor use. The characteristics of floaters are defined by the following.
- Open toe
- Strap around instep and ankle
- Solid sole, usually made of hardened rubber or plastic
It is the strap around the ankle that provides extra support compared to thongs, mules, or sliders, which makes floaters easier for walking. The major differences between floaters and slippers start with their use. Floaters are made for outdoor situations, particularly on the beach or along the water. In addition, floaters are designed to be tough and rugged, while slippers are primarily designed to be soft and comfortable.
Difference Between Slippers and Thongs
In some parts of the world, thongs are better known as flip-flops thanks to the sound they make when slapping against the sole of the feet when walking. Thongs are highly popular footwear that gained prominence in the 1960s, especially along the beaches. This type of footwear is defined by the these 3 models:
- Strap connecting to the sole between the toes
- Soft materials
Most thongs are made from inexpensive, though durable materials that are designed to stretch and “flop” when walking. Thanks to the connection point between the toes, it is easier to walk for longer distances in thongs compared to mules.
However, they are really designed to protect the soles of the feet from the hot sands found at beaches or walking short distances. The major differences between thongs and slippers are as follows.
- Thongs are made primarily for outdoor use
- Thongs do not fit around the feet
- Slippers do not have a connecting strap that is stapled into the sole like a thong.
Although you can wear thongs or flip-flops indoors and many people do, they are not the same as slippers.
Differences Between Slippers and Slides
There are many similarities between slippers and slides or sliders. Both are meant to be worn indoors and both are made from comfortable materials. In fact, there are some slipper designs that mimic the shape of sliders to a certain degree. However, there are some significant differences as well.
Sliders have an open back, hence the name. You slide your foot straight into the slider instead of pulling it on your feet as with slippers. In addition, sliders have an open toe which means that the toes are not covered when wearing sliders. It is true that some types of slippers are open toed as well, but not as a general rule.
It’s not surprising that slides or sliders are quite popular. Simply slide your feet inside and start walking. In many respects they are quite similar to slippers in terms of convenience. However, they usually have harder and thicker soles which makes them better suited for standing, if not walking. Because of their open back, extended walks can strain the calf muscles for some people.
Slippers have maintained their status as the primary indoor shoe for those who want comfort and a cozy fit. Given their long history combined with excellent fit with new, breathable materials, slippers are in some ways more popular than ever. However, slippers tend to be more attractive to older people perhaps because of their history. Or simply the fact that they help warm the feet on a cold, winter’s night.
Shopping for slippers should be a pleasant experience. You can choose from the many different colors, patterns, and types of materials used to create this particular type of indoor footwear. Understanding the differences between slippers and other footwear that is often seen inside the home will help you make the best-informed decision about what is right for your needs.
Sliders have become quite popular in recent years. The name is derived from the fact that you can literally slide them onto your feet. Sliders are characterized by the following.
- Strap or series of straps across the toes and foot to hold them in place
Sliders are meant to be comfortable, but their main claim to fame is that you can quickly slide them on before stepping outside. The soles are usually made from rubber or other durable material. And they are quite popular on the beach. However, they are not really designed for extended walking as the lack of a back puts more strain on your Achilles tendons in holding the sliders in place.
Furthermore, sliders are not thongs or flip-flops as they have no connection point that you can grip with your toes. The differences between sliders and slippers are fairly obvious.
- Sliders designed for outdoor use
- Made from hard materials
- No back
While slippers fit around the foot, the slider is far stiffer in terms of the materials used. The slider’s primary design is to protect the soles of your feet when stepping on hot sand or making a fast trip outdoors. While they can be used for indoor wear and often are in many homes, they are significantly different compared to slippers.
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Austin is the author of loveatfirstfit.com and a personal trainer with extensive knowledge in nutrition. Austin is passionate about helping others to find a suitable healthy lifestyle and feel good about themselves. Austin’s goal is to help people push their limits and achieve their physical performance.