Menorca has a long history of shoe-making, with their most famous export being traditional Menorcan sandals – known as Menorquinas or Avarcas – now sold the world over. Originally a peasant shoe designed to keep feet cool and comfortable when working in the hot and often rocky fields, the sandals were practical, hard wearing, and made with a soft leather upper and a piece of rubber tyre for the sole. Today the sandals still have a black tyre-like sole, but generally one that’s purpose-made rather than an actual car tyre.
Worn faithfully for decades by locals of all ages throughout the Balearics, in recent years Avarcas have grown increasingly popular elsewhere, and are now deemed a must-have fashion accessory and sold in outlets across the world. The increase in their popularity means that many places are selling inferior copies, but only genuine Avarca sandals made in Menorca are granted the official label by the government. It pays to buy the real deal as you can really tell the difference in the quality of the hand-sewn nubuck leather – the soft leather moulds to your feet and is so comfortable that it’s easy to see why people love them.
Traditionally made in only one neutral colour and style – which is still favoured by most locals – these days their fashion status means the sandals come in every colour and style imaginable. Some even have hand-painted designs, small heels, or platforms.
When visiting Menorca you can buy Avarcas pretty much everywhere, from tourist shops to huge outlets, but a walk through the stunning old towns of Ciutadella or Mahón is a particularly enjoyable way to shop. The narrow streets are lined store after store, selling the iconic shoes. Brands to look out for are Ria, Avarca Castell, Can Doblas, and Avarca Pons, all have been making high-quality, hand-crafted sandals for generations, and all having shops throughout the island. MIBO is another well-known brand and has a factory that you can visit to see the shoes being made, along with a decent factory shop where you can buy them fresh off the production line.
Whatever brand, style, or colour you choose, you can expect an authentic Menorquina sandal to last for ages, getting comfier the longer you wear them and likely becoming your go-to shoe for many years – even when they’ve fallen out of fashion!