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People get really heated when it comes to footwear for outdoor pursuits. Waterproof or breathable? Ankle support or low-profile? How much drop is too much drop? Hiking sandals are no exception.
Us outdoor enthusiasts are taught to prioritize things like covering our toes and making sure we have ample arch support. But didn’t humans walk just fine without hiking boots for several million years? It’s possible to see the argument from both perspectives. Hiking boots certainly offer more coverage of the foot and protection from the elements, but they also come with—quite literally—dead weight. The more weight you’re carrying on your foot, the more energy you’re expending with each step. For serious hikers, this can add up over time.
Enter the hiking sandal. They’re lightweight. There’s no need to worry about damp, bunchy socks chafing and causing blisters. They go from wet to dry environments without skipping a beat. And it’s easy to pull tiny pebbles and clods of dirt out of your foot without the tedium of having to unstring an entire old-school hiking boot.
Here, we’ve pulled together some of the best hiking sandals you’ll find on the market, whether you’re thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail or just running some errands this summer.
What to Consider Before Buying the Best Hiking Sandals:
Not all sandals are created equal. Some are designed for flat-footed people, some offer more support for higher arches, some are designed to handle wet environments, and some are suited for dry land only. The best place to start is to read carefully about each sandal’s intended usage, and then try out a few different pairs to compare and contrast which constructions work best with your individual foot shape. But before you begin, here are a few things to consider.
Material: With a much lower profile than a boot, everything used in a good pair of hiking sandals needs to pull its own weight. If support is a concern, make sure you’re examining the midsole closely. Midsoles are typically made from lighter and softer ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam, or stiffer, more durable polyurethane (PU) foam. If you’re just out walking about with a daypack, you’ll probably be fine with the cushiness of EVA foam. But if you’re embarking on a longer journey and plan on carrying a heavier overnight pack, look for PU options.
Soles: Most hiking sneakers have rubber outsoles for added grip. Soles with some depth to them—knobs, bumps, lugs—will have a little more traction, but can quickly start to contribute to the overall weight. If you’re looking for shoes to wear in both dry and wet environments, make sure the sole has some sort of channel to let trapped water escape.
Weight: As with hiking books, every ounce matters, especially for longer hikes. Lighter tends to be better, as they require less energy with every step, but lighter shoes tend to have less technology overall—less support, less grippy soles, and so forth. It’s your call, but hiking sandals tend to be pretty lightweight in general.
Best Overall Hiking Sandals
Keen Newport H2 Sandals
It takes a lot for us to call something “the best overall,” but with these Keen sandals, you really get the best of both worlds. They’re lightweight, they have a comfortable webbed upper, and they offer the toe coverage of a boot yet the breathability of a hiking sandal. For a first timer to hiking sandals, they’re a great place to start.
Materials: Polyester webbing, EVA, and rubber.
Weight: 1 pound, 12 ounces.
Closure: Bungee lace.
Best Adjustable Hiking Sandals
Chaco Z/Cloud Sandal
It’s the most iconic style, from the most iconic brand of hiking sandals. The sole offers cushy support and cloud-like comfort, but it’s the strap that won high marks with us: It’s made from a durable polyester jacquard webbing that gently wraps around your foot’s natural contours. Adjust it with the easy-to-use ladder lock buckle and they almost feel like they were custom-made for your foot.
Materials: Polyester webbing, injection-molded ladder lock buckle, PU midsole, and rubber outsole.
Weight: 29 ounces.
Closure: Adjustable polyester webbing strap.
Best Fashion-Flex Hiking Sandals
Jil Sander Leather and Rope Sandals
Leave it to the designer brands to create a sandal inspired by hiking sandals, but perhaps should be left for, well, hiking from your apartment to brunch. These are made from luxurious calf leather, and feature a chunky woven hiking cord strap that says, “I’ve been outdoors,” without really saying, “I’m outdoorsy.”
Materials: Calf leather, hiking cord straps.
Closure: Hiking cord straps.
Buy Now on Saks Fifth Avenue: $1,160
Best Closed-Toe Hiking Sandals
Teva Omnium 2 Sandals
People’s number one gripe with hiking sandals is that they don’t protect your toes on the trail—from errant sticks to little insects to reptiles trying to attack your toes. Enter this covered-toe option from Teva, made from a lightweight EVA-foam and with a grippy rubber outsole.
Materials: EVA-foam, nylon shank, and rubber outsole.
Weight: 13.25 ounces.
Closure: Plastic buckle.
Best Hiking Slides
Hoka Ora Recovery Slide Sandals
Consider this one more of an après-hiking sandal. They’re made from a marshmallowy EVA foam that provides support and traction, and just enough of a rocker for smooth, effortless walking with even the most tired legs.
Weight: 7.8 ounces
Best Minimalist Hiking Sandals
Luna Mono Winged Edition Sandal
They may not look like much, but these minimalist sandals are a feat of engineering; there isn’t a single superfluous design detail. The brand uses a patented continuous-loop lacing system with an adjustable buckle, which provides a perfect fit to your foot.
Materials: Vibram Morflex sole.
Weight: 5.9 ounces.
Closure: Continuous-loop lacing system.
Most Comfortable Hiking Sandals
Teva Terra Fi 5 Universal Sandals
A valid concern over hiking sandals is that they don’t offer all the functionality of hiking boots. This is not the case with Teva’s high-performing Terra 5. They go from dry to wet environments with ease; are made from durable PU midsoles that provide plenty of all-over support, even with the heaviest loads; and are treated with Life Naturals, a peppermint-based antimicrobial agent that keeps odor-causing bacteria at bay. Which makes them perfect to wear for long, multi-day hikes in the gnarliest environments.
Materials: Recycled polyester, molded PU midsole, and rubber outsole.
Weight: 14.3 ounces.
Closure: Bungee lace.
Best Waterproof Hiking Sandals
Tread Multi-Sport Sandal
Hiking sandals suited for water are about more than just waterproof materials that dry quickly—they’re about providing ample traction and support so you can step with confidence across moving streams and over slippery rocks. This popular Tread sandal has a robustly supportive sole, is made from a waterproof leather that dries in mere minutes, and has a grippy sole you’d swear could walk straight up a sheer rock face.
Materials: Waterproof leather and rubber.
Weight: 11 ounces.
Best Quiet Luxury Hiking Sandals
The Row Fisherman Suede Sandals
Again, the term “hiking sandal” could very well entail hiking around your Tribeca loft or your art gallery. And these fisherman sandals from the Row were simply too good not to include. They’re made from a discreet suede, and are perfectly cut to offer the breathability of a sandal, but also offer plenty of coverage so they’re appropriate for any environment.
Closure: Buckled ankle straps.
Best Ultralight Hiking Sandals
Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV Sandals
Remember—when it comes to hiking, every ounce of your gear can make a difference. If getting the lightest possible hiking sandal is essential, take a look at this option from Xero shoes. They’re made from a thin layer of cushy EVA foam, finished with a FeelLite rubber outsole for added weightlessness, and clock in at a positively feathery 5.4 ounces each.
Materials: Polyester jacquard webbing, EVA midsole, FeelLite rubber outsole.
Weight: 5.4 ounces.
Closure: Velcro and adjustable buckle.