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Published Apr. 13, 2022

Not everyone is a fan of hiking sandals, and that’s okay! But if you like a little more freedom for your feet during the warm weather months, hiking sandals are an excellent option. 

A few classic brands come to mind when thinking of hiking footwear, but many other functional and fashionable sandals are available. No matter the brand, the best hiking sandals should provide all-day comfort, can be used around water, and have a secure fit to prevent blisters and hot spots while hiking. 

Things to Consider Before Buying Hiking Sandals

To ensure you can find the best hiking sandals for your needs, read through the buying considerations before you get to our top picks.

Intended Use

If you’re shopping for the best sandals for hiking, then our guess is that you’ll be traveling in warmer conditions. Some sandal enthusiasts enjoy wearing socks with sandals to extend their yearly time together, but for the most part, sandals are worn in pleasantly warm weather. 

(Find out our top picks for the best hiking shirts to complete your warm weather hiking wardrobe!)

While the weather is a factor in footwear, how and where you plan to wear your sandals can influence purchasing decisions. For instance, long-distance backpackers may be looking for a lightweight hiking sandal they can wear in camp or on slow days to let their feet recover. Then there may be avid day hikers that want a versatile sandal they can wear around town, on hikes, and during casual paddling sessions. 

The best hiking sandal for you is one that fits your lifestyle. It will hold up in those conditions while also providing maximum comfort. If you are new to hiking with sandals, be sure to check out hiking 101 tips from the American Hiking Society.

Can You Wear Sandals for Hiking or Should You Wear Boots?

Your level of comfort, the terrain, and the climate are often determining factors when deciding between hiking boots or sandals.

Many hikers prefer to wear boots or shoes even through the summer months for the support and protection they provide. If you’re a trail runner or cover long distances in the backcountry, most hikers wear hiking boots or shoes and pack sandals as camp shoes or for river crossings. 

You can do long and even rocky hikes in sandals, but your feet may suffer. Even the best hiking sandals will be underbuilt for certain types of terrain and won’t provide protection to your toes or the tops of your feet. 

Materials and Support

Whether you are shopping for sandals or the best hiking shorts, the materials used to make that product matter. When it comes to hiking sandals specifically, the materials have an environmental impact and influence durability, functionality, price, and comfort. 

To best discuss the materials and their uses, let’s look at the three main components that make up a hiking sandal:

Sole: Also known as the “outsole” of a shoe, this covers the bottom section of the sandal, touching the ground directly. Most outsole materials are made of a type of rubber. For the most part, shoe companies don’t go into great detail about the exact type of rubber they use but look for it just in case. Outsoles can also be made from Polyurethane to provide a lighter-weight shoe. 

When shopping for sandals, you can focus more on the traction element of the sole. A stickier outsole rubber is good if you want a sandal that can handle technical terrain. The lug shape and depth on the traction tell you the intended use of that sandal. The deeper the lug, the better the traction. Flatter lugs help with braking, and smaller pointy lugs work for toeing off.

Midsole: How supportive or cushy a shoe is depends on the midsole material. The midsole is the layer between the outsole and insole. Most shoes have midsoles made from EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) or PU (polyurethane). Shoes with EVA foam midsoles are softer and lighter weight but not as durable as the PU materials that offer a firm and supportive feel. 

Closure System: The straps on sandals are not only what connect them to your feet, but they are also what keep the shoe snug and comfortable. The closure system on hiking boots and shoes is often the lacing system. For hiking sandals, this will likely be a velcro strap or a pull strap. Some hiking sandals, like the Keen Newport H2, are more of a hybrid model that has laces, but most use some type of strap. 

Hiking sandals traditionally have three straps: two that cross the foot and another to wrap behind and secure your heel. Chaco brand sandals offer a fourth strap to run diagonally across your foot. Toe straps are also an option, but having one of those is mostly personal preference and comfort. One sandal on our list, the Bedrock Cairn 3D Pro II, uses a thong-style strap. Most webbing or straps on sandals is made from a synthetic material like polyester, nylon, or a blend. 

The intended use can also influence the type of closure system. Sandals you want to use for hiking and water sports should have a webbing, slide closure versus a velcro closure. Velcro can be exposed to water, but it will be less durable and lose integrity over time and prolonged water exposure. 

The durability of many hiking sandals comes down to the sole specifically. It can be the sole separating from the closure or the tread wearing down too fast. So, the durability of the whole shoe and all of the materials should be of question, but the quality of the rubber in the sole of the sandal should be a priority. 

Some companies will list an estimated milage a shoe can withstand, but your walking or running form can influence how and where a sandal breaks down the fastest. 

Best Overall: Chaco Z1 Classic

Why It Made the Cut

The Chaco Z1 Classic has been a go-to hiking sandal for years because of the durable construction and sturdy design with sizes and styles for everyone. 

Key Features

  • Weight Per Pair: 1 lb 14 oz (men’s 9)
  • Closure: webbing with buckle
  • Sizing: true to size
  • Best Use: hiking, backpacking, daily wear

Pros

  • Durable midsole
  • Great traction
  • Very secure

Cons

  • A bit bulky 

For many hikers, a supportive and sturdy shoe is preferred, especially on rocky or rough terrain. If you want a hiking sandal that can provide the outsole and midsole support of a hiking boot, then the Chaco Z1 Classic should be a top contender. Chaco makes a variety of hiking sandals, and the Z1 Classic comes in men’s, women’s, and kid’s sizes with some design changes between them. 

These sandals are excellent for summer hiking, but they work very well for water sports too. The sandals stay secure even when wet, making them perfect for paddlers or those hiking in areas with river crossings. These sandals are comfortable, whether loose or tight, and most users have minimal issues with blisters and hot spots. 

The Chaco Z1 Classic is a sturdy shoe, making also a heavy, bulky shoe. For that reason, these are true hiking sandals, not necessarily a good camp shoe to pack along with you on the trail. If you’re someone that wants the extra support and likes the security of a thick sole, these are a great option.. 

Best Lightweight: Xero Shoes Z-Trail

Xero Shoes

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Why It Made the Cut

The Xero Shoes Z-Trail sandals are the ultimate minimalist sandal with impressive traction and unbeatable durability. 

Key Features

  • Weight Per Pair: 10.8 oz
  • Closure: webbing with buckle
  • Sizing: true to size
  • Best Use: walking, day hiking, daily wear 

Pros

  • Long-lasting materials
  • Helps build strong feet
  • Lightweight
  • 5,000 mile warranty 

Cons

  • Not very sturdy when wet
  • Limited support (can be a pro)

The Xero Shoes Z-Trail are my favorite summer trail sandals I’ve ever had. Now, I will say that some readers won’t like them for the exact reason why I like them: they have a very minimal sole support, requiring your feet to build up strength as you walk. 

Since they are lightweight, they are perfect for summer travel and as a camp shoes when backpacking. Even with the minimalist design, these shoes are built to last. After three summers of wearing them nearly every day, they are still going strong. Some wearers have struggled with tread wearing down in certain areas, but in most cases, this is due to their walking gait causing the shoe to catch the ground early or with a higher impact in one area. 

These will feel dramatically different from something like a Chaco, so we recommend trying these on in-person and knowing where your comfort level lies. While these don’t have much of a break-in time, if you plan to wear them on a hike, we recommend preparing your feet for the journey. Spend more time walking around barefoot when at home and wear the sandals on daily walks around town to strengthen your feet.

Best for Men: Bedrock Cairn 3D Pro II

bedrock Sandals

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Why It Made the Cut

The Bedrock Cairn 3D Pro II sandals are comfortable for hiking or wear around town with excellent traction and a unique design.

Key Features

  • Weight Per Pair: 1 lb
  • Closure: buckle and velcro
  • Sizing: true to size
  • Best Use: hiking, daily wear

Pros

  • Relatively lightweight 
  • Excellent traction
  • Secure fit
  • Resolable 

Cons

  • Strap design isn’t comfortable for everyone

The Bedrock Cairn 3D Pro II provides a lightweight and comfortable sandal design that you can wear while hiking or around town. The unique Y-shape strap fits much like a flip flop, which can take some getting used to. Even with that strap design, the sandals secure quite well. 

The back of the sandal secures with velcro, and the top has a buckle. The two-part strap system provides a good level of adjustability. Built with a zero-drop anatomically molded footbed, some wearers had sore feet from lack of support after long walks and hikes. 

With a feeling of less support, the Bedrock sandals may be similar to the Xero Shoes Z-Trail in that it will take some time to build up foot strength. So, these may not take long to break in, but they may take your feet some getting used to. 

Available in both men’s and women’s sizes.

Best for Women: Teva Tirra

Why It Made the Cut

The Teva Tirra sandals are designed for women’s feet with a sleek design that functions well on trails and the water.

Key Features

  • Weight Per Pair: 1 lb 12.5 oz
  • Closure: velcro straps
  • Sizing: inconsistent 
  • Best Use: hiking, walking, water sports

Pros

  • Excellent traction
  • Decent support
  • Secure strapping system
  • Utilizes some recycled materials

Cons

  • Sizing can be somewhat inconsistent

The Teva Tirra sandals are the best hiking sandals for women as they are functional, durable, and provide all-day comfort. Whether you have wide or narrow feet, these sandals work well as the straps can secure or loosen accordingly. 

Like many Teva shoe designs, these sandals utilize a velcro strapping system. The durable velcro provides a strong and secure fit, but it can wear down faster than classic webbing and buckle designs, especially with exposure to water. 

These sandals were designed for use around water. The lug design allows for water channeling to help you keep your footing even in wet conditions. The midsoles provide excellent comfort, but they also have excellent arch support if that’s something you are seeking. 

Best for Kids: Chaco Z1 EcoTread

Why It Made the Cut

The kid’s version of the classic design, the Chaco Z1 EcoTread is a durable and versatile outdoor sandal for kids. 

Key Features

  • Weight Per Pair: 11 oz
  • Closure: webbing with buckle
  • Sizing: true to size
  • Best Use: hiking, camp, general outdoor activities

Pros

  • Very durable
  • Easy to take on and off
  • Works for land and water activities
  • Good traction

Cons

  • Can be too wide for some children’s feet 

A more affordable and smaller version of the classic Z1, the Chaco Z1 EcoTread sandals are excellent for children and adults with smaller feet. Much like other Chaco shoe designs, these are built to last. They are very durable and have a thick sole built to carry you over various terrain types. 

They’re great hiking sandals, but they also function well for other outdoor activities and water sports. Many parents choose the EcoTread Chacos because they last a long time and can be passed down to younger siblings, making them a worthwhile investment. 

You can trust that the Chaco shoes can stand up to anything your kids put them through, and they aren’t likely to wear out before they outgrow them. We recommend trying them on in stores with your kids because the soles can be too wide for some kids’ feet, making them too loose to walk comfortably. 

Best Budget: Teva Original Universal

Why It Made the Cut

A spin on the classic Teva, the Classic Universal sandals are low-cost yet comfortable sandals for outdoor wear. 

Key Features

  • Weight Per Pair: 13 oz
  • Closure: velcro straps
  • Sizing: true to size (no ½ sizes)
  • Best Use: walking, camping, daily wear

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Comfortable for daily wear
  • Variety of strap colors 
  • Made from some recycled materials

Cons

  • Not as durable or supportive as other Teva sandals
  • No ½ sizes

If you are looking for a camping or hiking sandal on a budget, the Teva Original Universal is a top contender. It is not the same as the original Teva sandal, but it does share a similar strap design. The velcro straps provide a secure fit, but if you wear these in water often, the velcro is likely to be the first thing that wears out. 

They are lightweight sandals, but these soles do not provide as much arch support as other Teva options. Despite this, they are still quite comfortable but may not be the best for long hiking days. These sandals are excellent for day hikes, camping, and even backpacking if you want a sandal to wear around camp. 

Since they don’t have ½ size options, it can be tricky to get the right size. We recommend trying them on in person before purchasing to ensure you get a proper fit. Although they are a good value, keep in mind that these will likely not last as long as other hiking sandals on our list.

How We Made Our Picks

As someone who spent much of her life wandering around outside, I’ve been lucky enough to let my legs carry me over various terrains. From desert-scapes, rainforests, mountains, and everything in between, I always take a pair of sandals (except during winter travel). 

It was hard not to be completely biased toward my favorite pair of sandals and rank them first. So, to keep the competition fair, I chose the best hiking sandals using the following criteria: 

  • Durability/Lifespan: The durability and lifespan of sandals or any shoes, in general, is one of the most important considerations in terms of a quality investment but also in regards to sustainability. Almost all shoe materials are synthetic, so the longer they last on your feet, the better they are for the planet. 
  • Comfort: The best hiking sandals are the most comfortable for your feet. Not everyone’s feet are the same, so choosing brands that have comprehensive and easy-to-understand sizing guides is a must. Other important comfort aspects include the closure straps and where the material is situated on your feet. 
  • Functionality: Hiking sandals are made specifically for outdoor use, so the best hiking sandals will hold up well in natural environments. They are comfortable even on unmaintained trails and a variety of terrain. Hiking sandals also should be wearable in wet conditions. 
  • Customer Experience: How the company handles customer complaints, and its overall transparency of production practices is essential to make into our top picks. 

Other factors like personal experience with certain brands and models, brand-specific research, and verified customer reviews were also considered.

FAQs

Q: What should I look for in a hiking sandal?

What you should look for in a hiking sandal depends on your preferences and intended use. For instance, someone that only plans to day hike on well maintained trails may not need a very robust sandal. Then, if someone wants to have a sandal they can use for watersports as well as hiking, a more waterproof sandal may be more effective. No matter the type of activity, the best hiking sandal is one that is comfortable, fits properly, has adjustable closure, and a durable sole.

Q: Are hiking sandals comfortable?

Yes, hiking sandals can be comfortable. Not all hiking sandals will be comfortable for you, but with the right sizing and proper conditions, hiking sandals can provide an excellent hiking experience.

Q: How do you size hiking sandals?

How you size hiking sandals is primarily up to the construction of that particular shoe and manufacturer recommendations for sizing. For the most part, sizing slightly up for hiking sandals works well, but we recommend trying them on in person and using proper measurements for your feet in relation to the sandal. Sandals should have about a thumb’s width of room on the end of the sandal from your toes. The closure should be adjustable to ensure your foot is not sliding around while you walk.

Q: Do you wear socks with hiking sandals?

You can wear socks with hiking sandals. We recommend wearing hiking socks (see our roundup of the best hiking socks for recommendations) and only hiking in a dry environment if you choose to do this. When there is precipitation, wearing sandals with hiking socks will become very uncomfortable for your feet very quickly.

Q: Are hiking sandals waterproof?

Most hiking sandals are waterproof, and they can get wet. However, they will not protect your feet from moisture. Waterproof sandals are made from materials that will not be damaged or become uncomfortable to wear once wet. If you plan to use the sandals for water sports, we recommend looking into water shoes specifically to eliminate the risk of chafing or discomfort from extended wear around water.

Q: How do you break in hiking sandals?

Although hiking sandals shouldn’t take as long as hiking boots to break in, we recommend wearing them around the house, for light yard work, and walks in the neighborhood for a few weeks before taking them on a long hike. If you don’t have time to do a full break in, pack body glide, moleskin, and other blister care products in your first aid kit (see the best first aid kits here) and address hot spots as soon as you notice them.

Final Thoughts

The best hiking sandals are the ones that will stand the test of time on the trail and in the water. As with any outdoor product, the intended use should always be considered. Once you know how you plan to use the shoe, you can start to narrow down the ones that work best for your needs. Even if you didn’t find the perfect fit for you on our list, we hope the buying considerations help you make an informed decision.

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