Picture yourself on a hilltop, surveying the spectacular scenery that’s your just reward for your sweat and toil on the seemingly never-ending upward trail…
You’ve been wise enough to choose lightweight, breathable clothing, so you’re pretty cool and dry in spite of your hard work but, oh, those feet!
Chances are they’re safely encased in cumbersome hiking boots and socks from toe to ankle but, even with the most effective, cleverly-designed, breathable lining, it’s likely to be pretty steamy in there!
We all know that moisture trapped inside footwear is likely to lead to blisters and yucky fungal infections (and I won’t even mention those odors – oops, looks like I just did). Our guess is that most of us accept that it’s the unpleasant price we pay for our hiking habit and we just put up with it.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! Shoe designers have taken the humble and much-maligned sandal and ramped it up to a whole new level of awesomeness. They’ve managed to bridge the gap effectively between shoe and sandal, giving you way more choice in hiking footwear.
Read on and you’ll find out how you might benefit from taking a second look at hiking sandals as an alternative to boots or shoes.
Most of us are invigorated by the fresh air and freedom of open countryside. Imagine how nice it would be to feel a bit of a breeze circulating around your hard-working feet, too…
Price Guide & Amazon Rating
Keen Women’s Whisper Hiking Sandals
Merrell Women’s All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoe
Teva Verra Women’s Sandal
Purple Orchid, Deep Teal
KEEN Rose Women’s Hiking Sandals
ECCO Women’s Yucatan Sandal
Teva Men’s Katavi Outdoor Sandal
Keen Men’s Newport H2 Sandal
Rockport Men’s Rocklake Flat Sandal
Teva Men’s Omnium Sandal
Venshine Men’s Sports Summer Hiking Sandal
Blue, Brown, Yellow
Features of the Best Hiking Sandals
It’s pretty much a no-brainer that your oh-so-precious and vulnerable toes need the best possible protection when hiking along backcountry trails. There are so many ways you can sustain painful and often long-lasting injuries, not least stubbing your toes on rocks and stones along the way.
The best hiking sandals are cleverly designed to incorporate a good level of toe protection. Although there are plenty of hiking sandals on the market which are completely open-toed (we’ve even reviewed some), these are better suited to an easy stroll rather than a full-on hiking expedition. Save them for the beach or for use around the campsite.
Only you know what conditions you’re likely to meet on the trails you’re tackling and it’s your call to make sure your feet get the best possible protection.
You don’t have to be Einstein to work out that the fundamental requirement of a hiking sandal is optimum grip to help you negotiate the varying inclines and descents on the trail safely, no matter what the ever-changeable weather throws at you.
The new generation of hiking sandals generally incorporate outsoles designed to offer the best possible traction in all kinds of challenging conditions. When you set out on a hike, you need to be confident that your footwear can cope with all types of terrain, whether wet or dry.
A hard-wearing rubber outsole with an aggressive tread pattern is what you need to look out for to ensure the best possible performance.
By their very nature, the design of sandals tends to be more ‘strappy’ than solid. This is one of their best features because these straps mean you can customize the fit to your unique foot shape. This can minimise the misery of blisters caused by incorrectly fitted shoes or boots, or maybe banish it altogether.
The wider the straps, the more comfortable they tend to be and the less chance of rubbing but narrower straps may give you a better chance to adjust the fit more minutely to the shape of your foot. This adjustability can mean the difference between misery and maximum enjoyment.
Another benefit of straps is that you can adjust the fit when your feet swell once you really get going and work up a head of steam (literally!). This is harder to do in traditional hiking shoes or boots and is one of the big benefits of choosing hiking sandals.
Arch support and cushioning
Good arch support is key to comfort when walking the highways and byways. Lack of support makes your feet tire more quickly as your feet, and indeed your limbs, have to try and compensate.
In turn, this seemingly small detail can lead to injury and even long-term mobility problems. If you have high arches, you need to be sure that the shoe you choose has the right level of support to match the contour of your foot.
Modern shoe designers have excelled in developing cushioning materials which give the optimal level of comfort for the sole of the foot. EVA footbeds give long-lasting cushioning which is less likely to compact down with use.
Some brands pride themselves on providing cushioning which makes you feel like you’re walking on air! Finding the right level of cushioning for your own preference is important when you’re selecting the best hiking sandals.
If your default mental image of a ‘sandal’ is a flip-flop, then stability isn’t the first word that would come to your mind as you picture feet flipping and flopping about!
How things have moved on with the various hiking sandals out there on the market – yes, they’re sandals but they still provide the snugness of fit which is a minimum requirement for any performance shoe, especially one which is going to carry you through all sorts of challenging terrain.
Different styles feature different fastening methods and these will be better suited to some foot shapes than others. You can choose between Velcro or bungee lace-up fastenings, both of which allow you to get the closest and most comfortable fit.
That will minimise movement within the shoe and allow the treads to do their job, no matter what conditions you encounter along the trail.
With any hiking footwear, durability is one of the most important factors as the last thing you want is for your shoes to self-destruct mid-hike!
Uppers are manufactured from varied materials and some are better at resisting abrasions from inevitable encounters with rocks and rough terrain. Tough outsoles with aggressive treads also play an important part in extending the useful life of your sandals.
On the whole, the longer-established brands have got durability sussed. Their products are designed with this feature in mind as they understand that pretty much nobody wants to pay good money for shoes which don’t stand up to the test of time and don’t perform their function effectively.
We’ve said this before when it comes to footwear but we don’t mind repeating ourselves because this is the most basic necessity in our book. Shoes of all types are all about the three Cs: comfort, comfort and comfort.
A vital combination of cushioning, adjustability and traction is the key to comfort. What fits one person’s unique foot shape like a glove will cause agony for another.
One thing about choosing hiking sandals over boots or shoes is the natural ventilation. That in itself is a big step towards improved comfort as it will help to minimise the misery caused by trapped moisture.
Ultimately, only you can discover a shoe which is the perfect fit for you and performs whatever function it’s designed for. Sometimes this can be elusive and there can be some frustrating mistaken choices along the way.
We hope that our reviews will help you to find the product that best suits your needs and delivers the level of comfort you deserve.
In hiking circles, there’s a much-used saying that one pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back. Another rule of thumb for hikers is that one pound on your feet equals 5% more energy expended. These facts may seem unlikely but they’re proven, as any experienced hiker will tell you.
Therefore, minimising the weight on your feet is essential to reduce fatigue when you’re hiking. At the same time, you need to strike a balance between shoes being lightweight and not being substantial enough to cope with whatever terrain and tough climatic conditions you throw at them.
Fortunately, we’ve tracked down some of the best lightweight hiking sandals which are also rugged enough for the job you need them for.
10 Best Hiking Sandals Reviewed
1. Keen Women’s Whisper Hiking Sandals
If you’ve taken heed of our suggestion that one way to reduce fatigue when hiking is to reduce the weight of your shoes, then these lightweight hiking sandals from KEEN are definitely worth a look.
They’re really open and airy, with plenty of cut-away sections for maximum ventilation but they also offer excellent protection for the front of the foot.
These sandals are the tried and tested option, too, with over 7000 Amazon reviews, resulting in a 4.5 out of 5-star rating. That makes them a safe bet in our book since all those people can’t be wrong.
They’re also available in a huge range of color combos, so there’s guaranteed to be one which suits your own taste.
The very open design, though, makes them more suitable for well-maintained trails and shorter hikes than for a really serious hike.
Will These Shoes Fit Me?
2. Merrell Women’s All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoe
Easily mistaken for a trail running shoe, these hiking sandals are designed with an open framework to minimise the weight and to keep your feet well ventilated.
As the name suggests, they’re also designed to perform well in water as they’ll drain easily. The downside of the easy-draining feature is that stones and small sticks can enter through the holes when hiking. That makes them most suitable for well-maintained trails rather than really rugged and rocky terrain.
They’re easily adjustable with the elastic drawcord fastening system, which is ideal to cope with changing foot shape during exercise. The Vibram sole with its superior traction will keep you upright when the trail gets slippery.
You won’t be short of choices when it comes to color with these sandals, with around 14 to colorways to choose from.
Will These Shoes Fit Me?
3. Teva Verra Women’s Sandal
Teva is one of the gold-standard names in hiking sandals. This model is a classic Velcro laced sandal. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a lighter sandal that’s designed with hiking in mind.
The Velcro fastening makes these sandals easily adjustable so they’re suitable for pretty much any foot shape.
On the downside, the level of protection they offer is minimal. In our opinion, they’d be ideal to slip into your backpack for use at the end of the day when you’re back at the campsite or to use when you’re sure that the trail is well-maintained and free from hazards.
Your hard-working, tired feet would certainly appreciate the luxury of stepping out of hiking boots and into these lightweight sandals at the end of a day’s trekking.
Will These Shoes Fit Me?
4. KEEN Rose Women’s Hiking Sandals
These Rose hiking sandals from hiking footwear specialists KEEN have an open design to give the best possible natural ‘air con’ and ‘barefoot’ feel. They look cool enough for the poolside but you’ll be surprised how well they perform out on the trails.
KEEN’s patented rubber toe bumper will keep your vulnerable digits safe from stubbing when you find yourself negotiating more challenging terrain. At the same time, these sandals look pretty stylish and they’ll certainly keep your feet cool.
Featuring an EVA footbed, these sandals will give maximum support and comfort, being designed to cradle the natural contours of the foot. The Velcro fastening means that you’ll be able to adjust the sandals perfectly to fit your unique foot shape.
Will These Shoes Fit Me?
5. ECCO Women’s Yucatan Sandal
The ECCO brand is synonymous with comfort and these airy hiking sandals are true to form. The PU foam midsole and EVA footbed ensure superior cushioning which will keep your feet comfortable all day, supported by a rubber sole designed to cope with rough terrain.
The nubuck leather uppers make these sandals durable, so you can set out on your hike with confidence that they won’t self-destruct and let you down mid-hike.
With a whopping 30 styles and colorways to choose from, you’re sure to be able to find one to suit your own taste. The price varies according to the style and color selected but the comfort and support on offer is worth the price tag.
If you’re on a budget, keep searching till you find a style with a lower price – you could save quite a bit if you’re not too fussy!
Will These Shoes Fit Me?
6. Teva Men’s Katavi Outdoor Sandal
Although these sandals from Teva won’t cope with more challenging treks due to the open toe design, they do have an exceptionally rugged tread pattern. If you did meet unexpectedly difficult terrain along the way, they wouldn’t let you down.
You would have to watch out for your toes, though, as they’re exposed. The plus side of the open design is that your feet will benefit from exposure from fresh air, keeping them cool and comfortable.
The Velcro straps allow for maximum adjustment in the fit, especially as your foot shape changes as you work up a sweat.
Although they’re designed for taking on tough trails, the lack of toe protection means that they may be best kept back at the campsite, to give your feet a nice cool, comfortable treat after a hard day’s trekking in boots.
Will These Shoes Fit Me?
7. Keen Men’s Newport H2 Sandal
Robust is the word which comes to mind when considering these men’s hiking sandals from market leader Keen. The generous rubber toe cap encases the toes for the best possible protection from encounters with debris along the trail.
The cut-away sides make them ideal for coping with water and they’re a very popular choice with paddlers as a result. The tread pattern is as robust as the rest of the sandal and features multi-directional lugs for excellent traction in slippery conditions.
The elastic lacing system makes them easily adjustable to fit all foot shapes. There’s a wide range of choice of colors to choose from and these sandals are stylish enough not to look out of place for day-to-day casual wear. This makes them pretty versatile and therefore a good choice if you have an eye on economy.
Will These Shoes Fit Me?
8. Rockport Men’s Rocklake Flat Sandal
These leather hiking sandals aren’t the lightest on the market but they may well prove to be the most hard-wearing and robust. The adjustable Velcro straps mean it’s easy to get a snug, comfortable fit and the full rubber outsole will give good traction and stability when needed.
The robust outsole and EVA midsole combine to give optimum shock absorption, minimising fatigue in the feet and limb joints.
Another great feature of these sandals is the added arch support, making them ideal if you have high arches or other foot ailments. Indeed, these could prove to be some of the best hiking sandals for arch support on the market.
They’re less expensive than they look and are also known to be durable. What’s more, their style will take you comfortably from the shopping mall to the backwoods, so they’re versatile too.
Will These Shoes Fit Me?
9. Teva Men’s Omnium Sandal
With the Omnium, Teva have produced a true cross-breed between the traditional hiking shoe and sandal. While you’ll get all the protection you need for your delicate fore-foot area and optimal support and traction from the sturdy outsole, you’ll also benefit from the natural ventilation.
At first glance, the Omnium doesn’t really look like a sandal at all, having the appearance of a trail running or walking shoe. The leather/mesh uppers with cutaway sections and bungee tightening are comfortable and breathable, allowing you to get the snuggest possible fit for less friction and discomfort.
The adjustable heel strap is another feature that helps with those minute adjustments that can mean the difference between misery and pleasure out on the trail.
Will These Shoes Fit Me?
10. Venshine Men’s Sports Summer Hiking Sandal
These sandals from Venshine are super-versatile and will be just as useful on the beach as the hiking trail, or for pretty much any summer sporting activity. The enclosed toe gives protection from stubbing against rocks.
The sturdy and durable leather uppers have a ‘hydrophobic’ mesh lining which gives them the edge in wet conditions as they’ll dry out quickly. You’ll find the anatomically engineered arch support will add to the comfort factor and minimise fatigue.
The rubber outsole with its multi-directional lug pattern will give you confidence in challenging terrain. These sandals come in a few different color options.
Will These Shoes Fit Me?
Where in the USA should I consider wearing hiking sandals over hiking boots?
The consistently warmer temperatures and humid climate of Hawaii makes it one of the most obvious places to opt for hiking sandals over traditional shoes or boots. The volcanic terrain in some places makes for demanding hiking conditions with shale and loose lava pebbles.
If you choose the best hiking sandals for the job, though, you’ll find that they’ll cope better than you might imagine. Better yet, the adaptability of hiking sandals means that they’re just as useful for reef swimming, protecting your feet from sharp under-sea rocks.
Equally, hiking sandals would be ideal for cycling or kayaking. They’ll dry out pretty fast and be ready to hit the hiking trails next day. We all know how much room shoes take up when you’re trying to squeeze multiple pairs into your bag, so the more versatile your footwear is, the better.
The fact that they’re lightweight, breathable and moisture-wicking and have their own built-in ‘air conditioning’ makes them the perfect footwear for an active holiday in Hawaii.
Robust though hiking sandals are, they might not be the best choice in the testing conditions you’re likely to encounter on the trails in Yosemite National Park. The ‘open’ nature of hiking sandals means that you wouldn’t get the protection you need from bug bites and spiny or toxic plants. And then there are those snakes…
Open footwear has its risks and that goes even for sturdy ones designed for trail walking. You can survive a stubbed toe or a dislodged rock hitting your foot if it’s safely encased in a shoe - with sandals, you could end up with a painful bruise, broken toenails, abrasion, even a fracture.
All that said, if you have space in your backpack, you could find that swapping your hiking boots for a pair of hiking sandals when you get back to the campsite after a hard day’s hiking will give your tired and possibly swollen feet the light relief they’re yearning for. And they’ll be so much better for your fatigued feet than plain old flip-flops with no support.
So, our advice would be to take a pair of hiking sandals with you to Yosemite but keep them at the campsite and wear traditional boots or shoes when you hit the trails.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you wear normal sandals for hiking?
The reasons why it’s not a great idea to take to the hills wearing nothing but a pair of flip-flops aren’t hard to guess at – on your feet, that is, no one would seriously recommend hiking in your birthday suit!
The bottom line (pun intended) is that you’d be putting yourself in a position when you could so easily injure yourself or cause damage to your precious limbs by denying them the support they need when the going gets tough.
You’d be so much better off wearing specifically designed hiking sandals which will give you the stability, cushioning, support and traction that’s crucial in the challenging conditions you’re likely to encounter. Wearing incorrect footwear for hiking could lead to permanent and painful limb problems, so our advice is not to do it.
Are socks and sandals ever acceptable?
Hmmm… the timeless question! The true answer, as we’re very fond of telling our kids, is that it’s not a fashion show! And so we return to the ‘comfort’ question… Those 3 Cs again! Therefore, if you want to wear socks with your hiking sandals, you most certainly can.
What you’ll be missing out on, though, is one of the greatest joys of releasing your feet from their traditionally encased state: the feeling of the breeze wafting round your toes with its cooling magic. That said, you’ll also be giving your feet a little more protection from stones and also stings from plants and insects, so socks definitely have a role to play, especially in certain conditions.
When hiking on better days in spring or autumn, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pack a pair of hiking socks in your backpack which you could slip on if temperatures start to dip unexpectedly. There’s a time and a place for everything!
How should hiking sandals fit?
The fit should be as snug as possible without being too tight or constricting (for obvious reasons) as, indeed, it should be for traditional hiking boots.
We’re back to the subject of comfort here and the more adjustable your footwear is, then the more likely it is that you’ll get the optimal fit. This is where hiking sandals have the edge over boots as the various straps mean more precise adjustment and therefore comfort, especially when your feet swell during the course of a hike.
Should sandals be heavy or lightweight?
In view of what we said earlier about one pound on your feet being equal to five pounds on your back, clearly the weight of hiking footwear is an important consideration. When choosing hiking sandals, you need to be sure that durability hasn’t been sacrificed on the altar of achieving minimal weight.
The last thing you need mid hike is to find that your shoes have started to self-destruct if they can’t cope with the terrain.
Can I walk through water or do they need to be waterproof?
Since the very nature of a sandal is to be open to the elements, you’ll never find a ‘waterproof’ hiking sandal. That said, what you need to keep in mind is the sandal’s ability to dry as quickly as possible, so linings that are breathable and wick away moisture clearly have the edge.
When you’re out on the trail, you’ll meet all sorts of conditions – wet, dry, muddy, slippery. You need to have confidence in your shoes’ performance, no matter what you encounter along the way. Another benefit of hiking sandals is that they can double up as ‘reef’ shoes when you’re swimming to protect your feet from spiny creatures and abrasions from sharp rocks.
‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ So says the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. Okay, so he may have been talking metaphorically.
Imagine, though, how much less daunting that epic journey would be if you were wearing comfortable, durable, supportive hiking sandals, with the breeze gentling circulating around your feet!
Why not show your hard-working hiker’s feet some love and invest in a pair of hiking sandals today? They’ll thank you for it.
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