Mules versus Slides (and other issues)

There is a lot of debate over what sort of shoe is a Mule and what is a Slide. Although some individuals and shoe catalogs define these two terms differently, the majority view is the following:

Mules are backless and closed-toed
Slides are backless and open-toed
Both Mules and Slides can be any heel height from flat to high.

Technically, a Clog is a type of a Mule and a Thong Sandal is a type of a Slide. Normally, Clogs and Thong Sandals are kept in their own categories. To help clarify the issue, the following are some examples of various backless shoes and how they are classified:

High-Heeled Mule: Heel heights over 3 inches
Kitten-Heeled Mule: Heels around 1.5 to 2 inches with a pointed heel, ANOTHER example closeup photo.
Flat-heeled Mule: Heel height less than 1 inch. See this example.
Loafer Mule: Looks like a loafer except that the back is missing
Sneaker Mule: Looks like a sneaker except that the back is missing
High-Heeled Slide: Heel heights over 3 inches
Mid-Heeled Slide: Heel heights between 1.5 and 3 inches
Flat-heeled Slide: Heel height less than 1 inch
Clog: Birkenstocks and other shoes with two-thirds of foot enclosed in the vamp
Thong Sandal: Sandal has a strap bewteen the great and second toes or surrounding the great toe


Another issue that distinguishes types of mules and slides is the VAMP. The vamp is the part of the shoe that covers the foot. In comparing shoe vamps, the criteria of whether the shoe has a low vamp or a high vamp is the position on the foot below which (towrd the ankle) the covering stops. On a mule, the vamp starts at the end of the toes and extends toward the ankle some distance. On a slide, the part of the vamp that is cut out for the toes does not count. The vamp starts with the strap itself and continues toward the ankle some distance, like with the mule.

The following shoes have a low vamp: (Mule1) (Mule2) (Slide1) (Slide2)
These shoes have a high vamp: (Mule) (Slide)

Shoes with a low vamp tend to flop more when walking and the lower-heeled styles come off quite easily when walking. Shoes with a high vamp are more secure on the foot, however lower-heeled versions also have trouble staying on the foot at times.

Another consideration when it comes to mules is a preference for a square/rounded or a pointed toe. Many men like the look of a pointed toe but most women will tell you that a square or a rounded toe is more comfortable. Shoes with a pointed toe are longer because there is more length at the end of the shoe that is unused and therefore pointed toe mules often create toe cleavage creating an illusion of having a low vamp.

Examples: (Square toe) (Rounded toe) (Pointed toe)

One more photo to share with you. This photo is an example of a woven mule. This mule style is significant because back in the early 1990's, when mules began to come back into the fashion world, this was the first popular style. It virtually dissappeared a few years ago, but I have seen this style return in a limited way in the lasy year or so.

Before the 1950's, mules were almost exclusive to indoor wear or maybe poolside. Here is a link showing popular mule styles from the 1800's. These were all made for indoor wear.

A reporter for the NY Observer wrote this good article explaining that women with ugly toes should reconsider wearing open-toed mules and slides.

One of our lady friends on the 'Net, Goody, has written an excellent article that explains the physics of shoe styles and what keeps a shoe on the foot and what doesn't.

Humorous article about feet looking good in open toed shoes.

Nice story about painted toenails and open toed shoes.

Celebrities wearing mules and slides. I have collected some excellent examples of well-known celebrities both in the US and in other countries wearing mules and slides.

Stocking Shoes were apparently briefly produced in the late 1960's. The shoe and stocking are attached along the sole of the shoe. Here are a couple more examples: (1) (2)

Some members of the Northwestern University Lacrosse Team were chastised by their peers and parents for meeting President Bush at the White House wearing Flip Flops.

These two photos (1) (2) of the girls form a UCLA Sorority illustrate well the popularity of backless shoes and the unpopularity of nylons. For the fountain picture it appears none of them had to remove nylons and few had a backstrap on their shoes.

Good article about mules in Japan from 2001

This product is a flexible flip-flop that can be stored in a ladies' purse. NEW 12/20/06

Becky Quick from CNBC wears mules often. The following linkdocuments some of her dangling and shoeplay on the set of her show Squalk Box.